SCOTTSDALE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) — Hayley Avino and her husband, Christopher Avino, are both serving their community. Hayley is a nurse practitioner and Christopher is a Scottsdale firefighter. Both were able to get through school with the help of student loans, which they hoped would be forgiven through the federal government's Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, that's supposed to provide debt relief to public servants.
Getting assistance through the program has been extremely challenging. "For some reason for last 18 months, even though they told him it was approved, his forgiveness hasn't been applied," said Hayley. "There were 18 payments that should have been applied and they weren't."
The program, which started in 2007, has had a lot of issues, with thousands of teachers, police officers and health and government workers applying for forgiveness - only to be rejected - for an assortment of reasons. Stringent requirements and a tedious application process are among the problems.
But things may be about to change. The U.S Department of Education just announced a sweeping overhaul of the program that will relax the rules and make it easier for borrowers to receive debt forgiveness. Marisol Garcia with the Arizona Education Association thinks this could be a gamechanger for many teachers living paycheck to paycheck. "This affords them the ability to add to the economy, but it also adds to their ability to make their family a focus and spend more time with family," said Garcia. "This is really a good piece of policy."
Wednesday's announcement also includes a commitment to helping military service members and federal employees access the public service loan program's resources.
One of the most significant new guidelines allows borrowers to use past loan payments to count toward forgiveness. "It would allow us to use that extra money to go to the grocery store or gym membership," said Hayley. "I think it would be extremely beneficial."
Borrowers will still have to show they are working in a public sector job or working full time when they applied for debt relief. Having to make 120 on-time student loan payments is no longer a requirement.
The program is expected to impact between 500,000 and 1.3 million people. For more details, visit the Department of Education's fact sheet website.