Tag Archives: student loans

Santa Clara County Goes Back To Work

A new Shelter-in-Place Order for Santa Clara County residents went into effect on Monday, May 4, 2020, extending the shelter-in-place timeline from May 4, 2020 to May 31, 2020 but allowing certain businesses and activities to resume.

“We have successfully slowed the spread of COVID-19,” said Assemblyman Ash Kalra (A-27), in a statement released May 8.

The updated order from the county’s Health Officer allows some workplaces to go back to work so long as those organizations comply with certain safety protocols

That  includes all construction projects and real estate transactions, as well as nurseries, landscaping, and agriculture businesses that normally operated outdoors prior to the shelter in place mandate.

Educational and recreational programs that provide childcare for people who are allowed to work outside of their homes are also eligible to resume services.

However, the order requires that all businesses in the County update or create a Social Distancing Protocol based on local or state restrictions, and to follow whichever guideline is stricter, as they transition into Stage 2 of California’s Pandemic Resilience Roadmap.

Governor Gavin Newsom announced new changes to California’s four-stage Pandemic Roadmap, that will allow some Lower Risk Workplaces such as modified school programs and childcare the opportunity to adapt and re-open in some counties.

The framework also provides Industrial guidance that will drive the reopening of businesses in the retail, manufacturing, and logistics  sectors, as long as they meet criteria for risk assessment, screenings, physical distancing and disinfecting protocols.

Santa Clara County  Resource Initiatives

Santa Clara County is creating access to resources that its residents may need as they gear up for staggered re-openings within their county and across the state.

The City of San Jose is teaming with Verily and Santa Clara County to open free new community testing sites, which will offer 250 tests per day, 2-3 days per week . The city also has created a Nonprofit Resource Page in partnership with trusted nonprofit organizations. Nonprofits in Santa Clara county can access resourcesthrough Silicon Valley Strong  and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation’s coronavirus response program.

In San Jose, the city’s work2future program will work with local restaurants to provide on-the-job training for adults, and work experience funding opportunities for older youth.

The California DMV will reopen select field offices across the state on Friday, May 8, to a field office during the COVID-19 pandemic. The San Jose Driver License Processing Center will reopen to assist customers with appointments and transactions that require in-person visits. Online and expanded virtual services will still be available to complete driver’s license and vehicle registration renewals, and other transactions.

California State Pandemic Response

At the state level, Governor Newsome is creating several new initiatives to help Californians contend with the pandemic.

They include the Great Plates Delivered Program which will provide meals to high-risk seniors, and support for local restaurants  and other food providers that are struggling to remain open during the pandemic. Another groundbreaking statewide initiative, High Road Kitchens  will provide grants and subsidies to independent restaurants which commit to equitable wages, re-hire employees and re-purpose themselves as community kitchens as they reopen; training on compliance with COVID-19-related physical distancing orders is also on offer.

Childcare for Essential Workers

Parents can find affordable childcare from a list of open licensed childcare programsthrough a state subsidized portal  of Child Care Resource and Referral agencies. By entering their location and type of care they need, they will receive instantly receive a list of local center-based and family childcare programs.

Financial Relief for Students and Homeowners Additional relief measures announced by Governor Newsome include assistance for more than 1.1 million Californians with privately held student loans, temporary cash aid and assistance to eligible families to in find and keep jobs through CalWORKsand a Forbearance option – a temporary pause or reduction in monthly mortgage payments – for families facing financial hardships.  New guidance is also available for people who have exhausted all benefits, EDD debit cards, or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

Small Businesses Relief Programs

Covered California will protect small businesses seeking to keep their employees covered by reducing premiums and deferring payments during the pandemic. Governor Newsom also has extended the tax filing deadline for taxpayers have experienced financial hardship due to COVID-19

Residents can check the status of their Economic Impact Payment at the Get My Payment portal and confirm whether the money is arriving via direct deposit or paper check.

Nonprofits, commercial arts businesses, and individual artists can find arts funding opportunities through Americans for the Arts  and the CARES Act Table of Federal Arts Funding Opportunities for

More information is available at https://a27.asmdc.org/ or email assemblymember.kalra@assembly.ca.gov.

Meera Kymal is a contributing editor at India Currents

Photo by Mike Petrucci on Unsplash

Photo by Muhammad Rizwan on Unsplash

 

Hasan Minhaj Goes to Washington

“You know the student loan crisis is bad when I’m asked to testify before Congress about it,” tweeted Hasan Minhaj, the popular host of political comedy series Patriot Act, on Netflix. Minhaj was invited by the House Financial Services Committee to share his findings, after a recent episode of Patriot Act investigated and discovered that deceptive practices employed by loan servicing companies like Navient was exacerbating the student loan crisis.

In fact, the day they shot the episode says Minhaj, a poll of about 200 people in his live studio audience showed they owed an incredible six million dollars of student debt “in that room alone,” a revelation that really hit home with members of his audience.

“Absurdly tragic”

On the episode, Minhaj illustrated how students and families are taking desperate measures to pay off crippling debt. Patriot Act aired excerpts from Paid Off, a comedic game show on truTV where contestants compete for money to pay off their student debt. Contestants earn a percentage of what they owed in loans for each correct answer and could clear their entire student loan if they guessed eight answers correctly. Paid Off host Michael Torpey called the student debt crisis an “absurdly tragic”  situation that was holding back millions of people and the nation’s economy.

Debt is Stacked Against Student Borrowers

Today 44 million Americans have outstanding student loan debt, which can take decades to pay off. Estimates show the average borrower owes more than $37,000 in debt, and more than 2 million student borrowers owe over $100,000 in loans. In the US, student borrowing is expected to hit $2 trillion by 2020.

“You paid far less for your degrees!”

“We know that debt is stacked against student borrowers, in ways that it wasn’t 10 or even 15 years ago”, noted Minhaj, who had done his homework on where the 60 members of the Financial Services Committee had gone to college and what they had paid in tuition.

He told committee members “ …you have paid far less for your degrees,” pointing out that in 1971, Chairwoman Maxine Waters would have paid the equivalent of only $1000 a year at Cal State, LA, while today, Cal State costs well over “…six grand a year, …more than a 500% jump.”

Members of the committee, who on average graduated 33 years ago, paid the equivalent of $11,690 a year, said Minhaj “even adjusting for inflation.” Over that period of time, wages have increased only by 16% while tuition costs have spiked by 110%, so that, “Today the average tuition at all of your same schools is almost $25,000.”

The American dream is slipping away from millennials

“The issue is sidelining millions of Americans,” says Minhaj (33), especially with his generation, who are putting off marriage, kids, home ownership and retirement. “Growing up, it was drilled into our heads, you gotta go to college, if you want a middle class job,” something  that “we even tell kids today.”

But people aren’t making more money and college is way more expensive creating ‘a paywall for the middle class’ that Americans don’t deserve, says Minhaj. The fact is that two-thirds of all jobs in America require a bachelor’s degree, at a minimum, a standard that was not the case, “when most members of this committee were in school.”

Though average student debt hovers around $30,000, most graduates even with bachelor’s degrees barely make a wage that covers cost of living and student loan bills.

As a result, borrowers facing crushing debt can barely afford everyday necessities like rent, groceries or car payments, while repayment struggles and poor credit ratings makes it difficult for many borrowers to buy homes or cars, start a business, or begin even new employment opportunities.

The Department of Education is one of the nation’s largest creditors

Minhaj made it clear that student borrowers are trying to take responsibility for paying their loans, despite reports to the contrary. “They are investing in education and trying to pay their loans back.” It is unfair to treat many borrowers “like deadbeats,” said Minhaj, especially when the government is to blame for placing the financial futures of debt-ridden students in the hands of unscrupulous, “predatory, for-profit loan servicing companies,” like Navient.

“The worst part,” of the student loan crisis, stated Minhaj, “is that borrowers don’t even get to choose their loan servicer – the Department of Education does that for them.”

Why the math doesn’t work at Navient

Minhaj singled out Navient as a prime example of a predatory, unregulated, loan servicing company that uses deceptive loan servicing practices – like placing borrowers in high-cost repayment options known as forbearances – to boost corporate profits.

Navient misled borrowers, “…pushing them into repayment plans that in some cases, have cost individual borrowers tens of thousands of dollars,” in compound interest, collection charges and late fees, while the lack of competition, said Minhaj, allows corrupt companies like Navient to get away with sub par service.

On September 18, new court documents released by SBPC (Student Borrower Protection Center) revealed that Navient executives plotted to cheat struggling student loan borrowers of billions in extra fees, while raking in taxpayer dollars and paying shareholders huge amounts of money. Senior executives at Navient planned to deceive borrowers by placing them in ‘forbearances,’ resulting in more than $4 billion in unnecessary interest charges passed on to borrowers, according to lawsuits filed by federal and state enforcement officials.

SBPC Executive Director Seth Frotman said in a statement, “The evidence unsealed today in federal court confirms that Navient’s practices that added billions of dollars of debt to struggling borrowers emanated from the top echelon of the company. This follows a decade-long pattern of Navient ripping off service members, disabled veterans, teachers, and American taxpayers. The time has come for policymakers to admit this company’s practices are predatory and corrupt—it should not be given a single additional taxpayer dollar.”

Students deserve better service, not bankruptcy

In his closing statement Minhaj reminded Congress that “students deserve better” from a government “we know is capable of stepping in during a financial crisis – so really all I’m asking today is why can’t we treat our student borrowers the way we treat our banks?”.

Students borrowers deserve some basic protections, Minhaj concluded, so that “Americans should not have to go bankrupt pursuing higher education.”

Meera Kymal is a Contributing Editor at India Currents.

Resources for student borrowers:
https://www.bankrate.com/loans/student-loans/how-fed-rate-cut-impacts-student-loans/