An act establishing a loan repayment program for direct care human service workers

Bill Sponsor

Sen. Eric Lesser and Rep. Jeffrey Roy

Bill Status

Bills reported favorably by the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilites in early February, and have been referred to the Senate committee on Ways and Means.

Purpose of the Bill

This bill would create an education loan repayment program for human service workers. To be eligible, workers must be working a minimum of 35 hours per week, must have an individual income of less than $50,000 per year and must have maintained 12 consecutive months of employment in the sector. The program would allow workers to receive up to $150/month – or up to $1,800 per year – for a period not to exceed 48 months – or four years – to repay a qualified education loan that was used to attend an institution of higher learning.

Key Facts:

  • Many human services workers’ salaries start between $14 and $15 an hour. Minimum wage increased to $13.50 on January 1, 2021 and will increase to $14.25 on January 1, 2022.
  • The lack of affordable higher education for human services workers and the burden of student debt greatly contribute to the sector’s recruitment and retention difficulties.
  • According to The Institute for College Access and Success, more than 60 percent of seniors graduating from public and nonprofit colleges in 2019 had student loan debt with an average of $28,950 per borrower. Massachusetts is higher with an average student loan debt of $33,259 per borrower.
  • The problem grows increasingly worse in Massachusetts, as a 2018 report from the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center shows that average student loan debt in Massachusetts grew by 77 percent between ’04 and ’16 — faster than all but one other state.
  • More than 75 percent of human service workers have attended some college or have a degree.

If passed, this legislation would:

  • Amend Section 16 of Chapter 6A to create a student loan repayment program for human service workers making less than $50,000 per year.
  • Help organizations retain human services workers by having the state repay qualified education loans at a rate not to exceed $150/month for a period not to exceed 48 months. Payments will be made directly to the lender and only during months the participant is working 35+ hours per week as a human services worker in Massachusetts.
  • Assist human services organizations in the recruitment and retention of human service workers, defined as individuals who provide services by supporting individuals’ and families’ efforts to function in daily living situations.
  • Pay back qualified education loans, meaning any indebtedness – including interest – to pay tuition or other direct expenses incurred in connection with the pursuit of a certificate, undergraduate or graduate degree by an applicant.
  • Direct EOHHS to administer the program in accordance with Department of Education guidelines.

For more information: Email Bill Yelenak or call 508.599.2258.

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