Feds, State Take Steps to Ease Burden on Some Student Loan Borrowers – Post News Group

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According to a report by California Student Loan and Debt Service Review Workgroup (CSLDSRW) — established under the state’s Budget Act of 2020 — and the National Center for Education Statistic (NCES), 84.9% of Blacks who earned bachelor’s degrees from 2015 to 2016 owed an average of $34,000 upon graduation.
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By Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media
Lillian Lewis earned multiple degrees from California State University Sacramento.
Before the pandemic began, Lewis said, paying down the high student loan debt she accrued to cover her tuition and living expenses while in school put a strain on her monthly budget. Those arrears (“in the thousands”) with growing interest made it difficult for her to make ends meet.
But last month, Lewis and about 30,000 other American student loan borrowers across the United States received some unanticipated good news. The Biden administration announced a $2 billion relief program that expanded the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program.
“It took a huge load off my finances and will improve my credit, which was not bad anyway,” said Lewis, who does social work and now lives in Las Vegas. “It was taking forever to pay off. Now, I don’t have to worry anymore.”
PSLF wipes out student loan debt for borrowers who commit to public service careers or work full time for public or nonprofit organizations.
The relief program launched about three months before the federal government lifts a freeze on student loan payments on Jan. 31, 2022. In March 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the country, the feds paused monthly payments for Americans who owe student loans, stopped all collection activity, and applied a temporary zero-interest rate to all debt.
In California, there are thousands of African Americans like Lewis: saddled with huge balances stemming from loans they took out to pay for tuition not covered by scholarships, living arrangements, textbooks, and other expenses.
In November, highlighting one borrower’s story, United States Education Secretary Miguel Cardona tweeted, “we are just getting started” to provide student debt relief for millions of Americans.
According to a report by California Student Loan and Debt Service Review Workgroup (CSLDSRW) — established under the state’s Budget Act of 2020 — and the National Center for Education Statistic (NCES), 84.9% of Blacks who earned bachelor’s degrees from 2015 to 2016 owed an average of $34,000 upon graduation.
CSLDSRW’s study also found that Californians of color default more on their student loans. Neighborhoods in the San Francisco Bay Area with the largest percentages of Black and Latino residents had 19.9% of borrowers in delinquency and 15% in default.
In Los Angeles, borrowers living in ZIP codes with high minority populations had double the amount of default rates than borrowers in ZIP codes that are predominantly white.
U.S. Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-Massachusetts) told the media at an event hosted by the American Federation of Teachers earlier this year that she, too, had defaulted on her student loans.
Black women carry 20% more in student debt than white women, according to the American Association of University Women, an advocacy group that fights for fair pay and economic opportunities for women.
“Like 85% of Black students, I had to borrow; and like so many of those students, I had also defaulted on those loans. We know that Black and Brown students are five times more likely to default for those loans than our white counterparts,” said Pressley.
CSLDSRW’s reported that among all borrowers, Black women accrued more student debt, an average of $37,558, from their undergraduate studies than any other group.
According to EducationData.org, a website that addresses the rising cost of higher education, Black college graduates owe an average of $52,000 in student-loan debt – nearly $25,000 more than their white counterparts.
In October, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill (AB) 424, the Private Student Loan Collection Reform Act, which places new documentation requirements on private student loan lenders before activating any collection activity. AB 424 becomes law on July 1, 2022.
“We’re turning commitments into reality by ensuring that our students have more access to high-quality educational opportunities, creating a change of course for generations to come and bolstering California’s innovation economy,” Newsom said when he signed the legislation.
“Californians have thrived at our world class universities for decades, but not everyone has had similar access – today that’s changing,” he continued. Everyone deserves a shot at the ‘California Dream.”
The U.S. Department of Education expects thousands more to benefit in the coming months from more federally funded debt relief programs.
Over 45 million Americans have a total of $1.7 trillion worth of student loan debt. Progressive lawmakers have pushed Biden to wipe out all federally held debts up to $50,000 and they are making efforts to stop repayments of loans.
“89% of student borrowers say they aren’t financially ready to resume student loan payments & 27% will be spending at least a third of their income on payments when they resume,” tweeted Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). “Student debt is dragging down our and economy@POTUS should #CancelStudentDebt.”
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“We’re about balance, inclusion, and stating the case precisely so that it doesn’t face paralysis of analysis or become just another study,” Brown said. “We have had too many studies of Black folks in the past. Now is the time to show us that we are serious about being ‘one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,’” said Rev. Amos C. Brown who is vice-chair and the senior member serving on the nine-member California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans, referencing the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance.
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By Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media
The Rev. Amos C. Brown is vice-chair and the senior member serving on the nine-member California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans.
Brown, 80, says he is “extremely pleased” with what the committee has accomplished after four meetings.
The task force held its fifth and final two-day meeting session of 2021 on Dec. 7 and Dec. 8. As written in Assembly Bill (AB) 3121, the group has until 2023 to present a set of recommendations to the state for consideration.
“The task force has been extremely focused and substantive. We have some of the best minds — people who know the history, psychology, and sociology of the pressure Black folks in this country have felt,” Brown told California Black Media.
The task force was created after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 3121 into law in September 2020. California Secretary of State Shirley N. Weber authored the bill while she served in the State Assembly representing the 79th District in San Diego.
The law calls for the state to set up a task force to study slavery, Jim Crow segregation and other injustices African Americans have faced historically in California and across the United States.
The group will then recommend appropriate ways to educate Californians about reparations and propose ways to compensate descendants of enslaved people based on the task force’s findings.
The members of the task force come from diverse professional backgrounds. So far, the panel has heard testimony from a range of experts and witnesses, including descendants and representatives of people or families the government denied justice in the past; as well as historians, economists and academics.
“We’re about balance, inclusion, and stating the case precisely so that it doesn’t face paralysis of analysis or become just another study,” Brown said. “We have had too many studies of Black folks in the past. Now is the time to show us that we are serious about being ‘one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.’” Brown said, referencing the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance.
According to Brown, African Americans in his hometown of San Francisco need to overcome decades of psychological damage imposed by racism, discrimination and unfair government policies, including some urban renewal programs that hurt Black families more than they helped.
On Nov. 22, Brown joined actor Danny Glover, other local Black leaders, and members of the San Francisco Reparations Committee, to ask the city to donate the historic Fillmore Heritage Center to the African American community.
Many have referred to the Fillmore neighborhood as the “Harlem of the West” in the 1940s, Brown said. By 1945, over 30,000 Black Americans lived in the historic area.
Today, around 6% of San Francisco’s population of nearly 875,000 people are Black or mixed-race African Americans.
“San Francisco City leaders have a moral obligation to right the racist wrongs that destroyed that culture and that community and allow the Fillmore Heritage Center to live up to the full meaning of its name,” Glover said in a statement.
In 2007, the center became a venue for Jazz and Blues, reminiscent of the culture and Fillmore night clubs that attracted musical greats like Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, and others.
Last May, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to appoint a 15-member African American Reparations Advisory Committee.
“That building, that land, represents the disenfranchisement, redlining of Black folks in this town, and the redevelopment agency not being fair,” Brown said. “The Fillmore, 12 blocks, itself was the hub of Black entertainment, Black culture, Black businesses and Black life. You just can’t wipe out our history or our heritage.”
Born in Jackson, Mississippi in 1941, Brown says he was delivering JET magazine when the popular weekly published graphic photos of 14-year-old Emmett Till murdered by a racist mob in August 1955 in Money, Mississippi, a rural area known for the cultivation of cotton. Till’s lynching ignited the Civil Rights Movement.
“Emmett and I were the same age,” Brown said. “When I picked up a copy (of Jet magazine), I saw that mutilated head. It horrified me. I remember it vividly.”
At 15, Brown started the first youth council for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In 1956, Medgar Evers, a Mississippi state official for the NAACP, brought Brown, then 15, to San Francisco to attend the NAACP’s national convention where he first met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Brown later studied under King at Morehouse College in Atlanta.
In 1961, he was arrested with King at a lunch counter sit-in and joined the Freedom Riders, a group of activists who protested segregation in the South.
“In 1960, before I joined the Freedom Riders, the NAACP Youth Council actually organized the first ‘sit-down protest’ in Oklahoma City in August 1958,” Brown said. “The first sit-down movement did not start in Greensboro, North Carolina. It began in Oklahoma City, Wichita (Kansas), and Louisville (Kentucky) under the auspices of the Youth Council of the NAACP.”
Brown earned a Doctor of Divinity from United Theological Seminary in Ohio and a Master of Divinity from Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania.
Brown has been the pastor of Third Baptist Church of San Francisco since 1976. From 1996 to 2001, he served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He is president of the San Francisco Branch of the NAACP and a member of the organization’s national board of directors.
Brown said he is monitoring reparation legislation and conversations across the country to see if proposals being put forward are in sync with California’s efforts.
“What I want to accomplish is: Black people being and knowing that something was done about their pain — that can be done in the state of California,” Brown said. “Things can never be perfect, but at least collectively people of conscious and good will can stand up and say, ‘this is what we must do to right this wrong.’”
Applicants must have an overall GPA of at least 2.5, must show community involvement and leadership skills, and must plan to attend a two- or four-year college or university during the 2021-2022 academic school year.
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High school seniors in the West Contra Costa Unified District (WCCUSD) are encouraged to apply for the annual Chevron Richmond Black History Awareness program.
Applications can be accessed at https://richmond.chevron.com/community/education/scholarships and must be received by email on or before Monday, Jan. 17.
First launched in 2003, the is sponsored by the Chevron Richmond Black Employee Network and provides four deserving students with scholarships in honor of William F. King, a distinguished Chevron chemical engineer of 27-plus years who was active in the community and retired in 2003. To date, the Refinery’s Black Employee Network has awarded over 50 student scholarships.
Applicants must have an overall GPA of at least 2.5, must show community involvement and leadership skills, and must plan to attend a two- or four-year college or university during the 2021-2022 academic school year.
Along with completing an application, students must submit a typed 500-750-word double-spaced essay about how an event in Black history impacted their life, their experience in community involvement or lessons they’ve learned from their past. The applicants are also required to have a letter of recommendation from an instructor, adviser, coach, community leader, pastor or someone else who is not a relative.
winners will be notified of the results by Feb. 1. The first-place winner (and possibly the second through fourth place winners) will be expected to read their essay at the Annual Chevron Richmond Black History Awareness Celebration on Thursday, Feb. 17.
Students must submit completed application packets by email to RichmondCE@chevron.com.
“It is a privilege and honor to serve again as chair of the California State Board of Equalization,” said Malia M. Cohen. “In these unprecedented times, with the daily challenges of the global COVID-19 pandemic, we must remember that our first duty is to the people of California who deserve our continuing dedication, resolve, and service.”
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By Tanu Henry | California Black Media
Last week, the California Board of Equalization (BOE) elected Malia M. Cohen its chair. She is the first African American woman to serve on the Board.
It is the second time in four years, Cohen — a San Francisco native — has been elected chair of the five-member body responsible for representing taxpayer interests and “equalizing” county-by-county tax assessments across the state.
BOE is comprised of four members that are elected to represent a region of the state, and California’s Controller Betty Yee.
“It is a privilege and honor to serve again as chair of the California State Board of Equalization,” she said. “In these unprecedented times, with the daily challenges of the global COVID-19 pandemic, we must remember that our first duty is to the people of California who deserve our continuing dedication, resolve, and service.”
Besides providing “direct representation” to Californians on their property assessments and other tax-related issues, the BOE directs an estimated $75 billion in annual revenue to the state’s schools and local governments in all 58 counties.
Before her election to the BOE in 2018, Cohen served as president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. From 2011 to 2019, she was a member of the Board, representing the city’s second district, which includes neighborhoods along the southeastern shore of the Bay like Hunters Point-Bayview, the Central Waterfront and Sunnydale.
On the BOE, Cohen represents the Second District. It spans 23 coastal counties from Santa Barbara County (about 95 miles north of Los Angeles) to Del Norte County on the Oregon border.
As chair of the BOE, Cohen says remaining accessible is her priority.
“For Californians who have struggled during these most difficult times, please know that my door is always open to you,” she says.
Cohen has announced she is a candidate for State Controller in the 2022 election.
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Onesimus. It is a name we don’t hear when we look at the history of vaccinations, but in the United States we owe a debt of gratitude to an African Slave named, Onesimus. In this video, voiced by writer and political activist, Baratunde Thurston, learn how Onesimus a traditional African inoculation technique that saved countless live from Smallpox and become the foundation for vaccine as we know them today, including the COVID Vaccine.

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