One in five consumers who receive financial counseling used their federal tax-stimulus checks to pay down credit card debt, according to a survey released this week by Consumer Credit Counseling Service, an Atlanta-based national nonprofit credit counseling agency.

The agency last month surveyed 3,004 of its clients about the status of their tax-stimulus checks and how they spent the money.

Of those surveyed, 3.5% said the money would help them avoid foreclosure, while another 5.1% said the stimulus payment gives them more time to possibly avoid foreclosure. Approximately 1.4% of respondents said the funds would help them avoid bankruptcy, while 2.4% said the funds will allow them more time to organize their finances and possibly avoid bankruptcy.

"Many Americans are using the federal stimulus checks to help them get by and pay for everyday expenses," Suzanne Boas, president of CCCS, said in a news release. "The extra money is providing them breathing room with their creditors, including those who want to avoid foreclosure and keep their homes."

Nearly 30% said they used the tax-stimulus funds to pay for everyday expenses such as food and gasoline and 9% said they would use the money to make an additional payment on another debt, such as a car payment or a student loan.

The federal government reports it sent $106.7 billion in tax-stimulation payments to 130 million households beginning April 28.

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