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Teachers, police officers and social workers denied student loan forgiveness

Posted at 5:31 PM, Sep 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-06 18:24:30-04

CLEVELAND — A glimmer of hope given to thousands of public service employees faded fast after learning the helping hand extended does not apply to them.

The safety net for teachers, police officers and social workers struggling with student loan debt is failing to ease their cash crunch.

A shocking new report from a government watchdog shows of the $700 million Congress set aside to forgive public servants' student loans, only $27 million of it has been spent.

"The launch of the student loan forgiveness program for public service employees was a disaster," said Marc Dann with Dann Law.

Last year, to help those in our community whose job it is to help others, Congress temporarily expanded the program.

"It's hard to attract people to low-paying professions after they've accumulated $100,000 or $50,000 of student debt," said Dann.

After making 10 years of payments while in certain public service jobs, eligible borrowers could apply to have their student loans forgiven.

Now, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, 99% of those requests were denied.

"Folks tried to do the right thing, they're in professions where they are doing the right thing, and the federal government is simply not recognizing that dedication and hard work," said Dann.

Just 1% of those buried under their debt have successfully broken free.

"I think people should be outraged and I think people should reach out to their congressmen and congresswomen and let them know that they're outraged about this," said Dann.

The Dann Law Firm is constantly getting calls from people frustrated because they thought they were following the rules and were still denied.

"I think it's pretty clear that philosophically the people in charge of the Dept. of Education and the federal government disfavor this public service loan forgiveness program, and so I think they may intentionally be making it more difficult," said Dann.

Even if borrowers didn't cross their t's and dot their i's the way they should have, Dann believes that money should be theirs.

"If you made the payments and you made them for ten years and you made the payments during that time then the spirit of that law has been met," said Dann.

Dann told News 5 this doesn't just impact those looking to have their loans forgiven. A program like this is designed to lure people to professions that make our community a better land.

"Certainly, among the incentives for people like my wife to stay and continue to work with the toughest of the tough special ed kids was the fact that her student loans at the end of 10 years were going to be forgiven. Now she's not so sure," said Dann.

The GAO is now recommending the Department of Education and the Office of Federal Student Aid make changes.

Both agencies are being asked to provide borrowers a more seamless way to request loan forgiveness consideration.