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Council forum looks at ways to ease burden of student debt

The Providers’ Council hosted a forum on student debt relief at WORK Inc. in Dorchester on Tuesday, March 29 that presented both the current loan repayment and forgiveness options as well as legislative solutions being sought by the Council on behalf of the human service workforce.

Boston attorney Adam Minsky, who specializes in student loan repayment, led a panel that included HMEA CEO and Caring Force Chair Michael Moloney and legislative consultant Lisa Simonetti. Providers’ Council President and CEO Michael Weekes moderated the event.

More than half of the 50 attendees said they are currently paying off student loans, and about 90 percent said they had a college loan at some point.

Minksy outlined the different types of student loans (federal and private) and the two categories of repayment programs (balance-based or income-driven), then focused on the programs most beneficial to individuals working in the nonprofit, human service sector, including available loan forgiveness options.

“There are programs to help,” he said. “To start, you have to understand what type of loan you have to determine what type of options are available.”

Moloney talked about the importance for organization leaders finding ways to at the least share information with employees to give them the tools to bring student debt under control, noting that HMEA has started exploring ways to assist staff with the mounting burden of student debt. He also emphasized the importance of The Caring Force to advocate on behalf of the human service workforce.

Simonetti talked about House Bill 124, a loan repayment bill for human service workers filed by Rep. Jeffrey Roy for the Council, explained the legislative process and stressed the importance of attendees contacting their legislators to support the bill. H.124 would provide up to $150 per month for not more than 48 months to low-paid human service workers to help pay off student loans.

“It’s not huge, it’s not going to cure everything, but it is a benefit,” that could help with staff recruitment and retention, Simonetti said.