Mass. AG Maura Healy Announces New Student Loan Ombudsman to Help “Needy Borrowers”

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Massachusetts student loan borrowers will have a new resource to deal with complaints or concerns as they struggle to get out of debt, Attorney General Maura Healy said Thursday.

Healy has appointed Arwen Thoman, deputy director of insurance and financial services in her office, to the newly created position of student loan ombudsman under the Student Loan Borrower Bill of Rights sponsored by State Senator Eric Lesser and Natalie State Representative. Higgins.

Toman and Deputy Ombudsman Erica Harmon will be tasked with “handling student complaints, educating borrowers, supervising student loan servicers, and submitting annual reports on complaints and borrower trends,” Healy’s office said in a press release. Both Toman and Harmon have “extensive experience” in helping student loan borrowers through their leadership of the Student Loan Assistance Group, which was formed in 2015, Healy said. The unit helps borrowers find repayment options, prevent withholding wages and taxes, and prevent debt write-off fraud.

“My office is at the forefront of this 1.7 trillion dollar crisis, fighting for student borrowers in Massachusetts and accepting a student loan system that is fundamentally disrupted and devastating to countless Americans,” Healy said in a statement. “The establishment of this post of Ombudsman will be critical in our ongoing work to help students and their families invest in their future and get the help they deserve.”

The Student Loan Borrower Bill of Rights, signed earlier this year and taking effect Thursday, authorizes the Banking Authority to require certain types of credit institutions to obtain licenses, Healy’s office said.

“We marked an important moment when the Student Loan Borrower Bill of Rights became law. Its adoption was the result of more than six years of propaganda and determination from supporters across the Commonwealth who called, spoke out and encouraged Republican Higgins and me to push him to the finish line, ”said Lesser, chairman of the Senate Joint Committee. on economic development and latest technologies “Nearly a million people in Massachusetts collectively owe more than $ 40 billion in student loans and still have not used adequate state consumer protection for one of the largest financial investments of their lives. I look forward to working with Attorney General Healy and the Office of the Student Loan Ombudsman to put in place a strong support system to protect student loan borrowers across Massachusetts from these harmful practices. ”

Higgins, deputy chairman of the committee’s House of Representatives, said in a statement that student relief measures due to the pandemic will expire on September 30.

“With over 1 million student loan borrowers in Massachusetts, it is vital that they understand their rights and can turn to the ombudsman’s office for support if they run into trouble with their repayment plans,” she said.

Mary Gallagher, Commissioner for Banking, said the new regulatory framework helps ensure that student loan servants continue to “comply with the rules” and that “student borrowers are protected.”

Healy’s office said that as part of its ombudsman role, Student Assistance will carry out outreach activities, including promoting educational materials and informing government officials about the federal government service loan forgiveness program and the temporary expanded government service loan forgiveness program. The role of the ombudsman will also work with other ombudsmen across the country and “serve as a platform to advocate for regulatory reforms and policy changes with the Biden administration and with lending services,” Healy’s office added.

Healy’s office said Student Loan Application is available online to help borrowers with their loan needs and concerns. They can also call the AG Student Loan Helpline at 1 (888) 830-6277.

Earlier this year, Healy, along with Senator Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Ayanna Pressly, addressed the President Joe Biden to cancel a debt of up to $ 50,000 from borrowers of student loans in the United States, while Americans are trying to recover from COVID-19 pandemic.

Warren, Pressley and other members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation recently called on Biden to extend his term. suspension of federal student loan payments and interest after the end of September until the spring of next year.

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