Public Service Loan Forgiveness Help for Borrowers in the Wrong Plan

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One of the requirements of Public Service Loan Forgiveness is that recipients be in an income-driven repayment plan. However, borrowers who are in repayment plans like graduated or extended may still be able to apply for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, if you can show you’ve been paying more each month than you should under income-driven repayment. $350 million was recently set aside for this “fix” purpose.

Here’s how it works:

  • Verify that you are in a graduated or extended repayment plan by contacting your loan servicer.

  • Take a look at your monthly payment from a year ago.

  • Estimate how much your monthly payment would be under an eligible income-driven repayment plan. (This calculator can help.)

  • If your current payment is more than what it would be under one of the four income-driven repayment plans, you might qualify for additional help.

For questions on accessing this “fix” funding, or Public Service Loan Forgiveness generally, contact Heather Vlieger of LRAP Minnesota at HeatherRV@mnbar.org or 612-278-6315.

Mid-cycle LRAP application materials are currently available at www.lrapmn.org and are due November 1st. Those who applied in May 2018 need not reapply. This application is intended for folks hired after July 1, 2018.

Innovations for Clients: Refining the New LawHelpMN with Focus Group Feedback from Community Partners

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by Emily Good, Legal Projects Manager

As State Support continues its work on the LawHelpMN.org redesign project, the development of the site’s new legal triage function remains a high priority. This new tool – a guided questionnaire designed to offer each user a tailored set of self-help materials and customized referrals for legal help – will be further refined this fall. In September and October, a professional consultant will conduct focus groups with the goal of testing the new screening tool with trusted intermediaries from the community. This focus group work is being funded by the National Center for State Courts to support implementation of the Minnesota Justice for All Strategic Action Plan

Trusted intermediaries – such as social workers, public librarians, and faith-based community members and leaders –  are gateways to legal information and services for the communities they serve. Many people with a legal issue do not identify their problem as legal in nature, and therefore do not reach out for legal help or resources. This is precisely why proactively engaging with organizations and community resources where people do seek help is an important way to identify and connect them with the legal help they need.

The upcoming community focus groups will consist of two parts. The first is a walk-through of the new screening tool, asking the user (a trusted intermediary) for their feedback on usefulness and any confusing pieces. The second is a discussion in which users talk about how this tool could be used in their work. One goal of the focus groups is to understand how the tool can be used in community work and what changes would make it more useful to our trusted intermediaries. A second goal is to develop outreach strategies to increase awareness of the newly redesigned LawHelpMN, including the screening tool, so that community partners can then connect people in need to legal information and services.

The focus groups will engage volunteers in the development of user feedback tools, and to work as observer-interviewers during the sessions. Volunteers will get training in design thinking in the legal context, developing stakeholder personas, and user feedback tools generally. Faegre Baker Daniels has provided the space for the training, as they have a commitment to improving access to justice and a contingent of lawyers who have done work in design thinking. If you are interested in attending the training on Friday, September 14th from 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. in Minneapolis, please contact Melissa Moss at melissapmoss@gmail.com by Wednesday, September 12th.

MMLA's North Minneapolis Collaborations Featured in Attorney at Law Magazine

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Thanks to funding from philanthropic, social services, and government sources, Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid (MMLA) has four new projects in two locations to serve the needs of North Minneapolis residents. 

At NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center, Legal Aid's newest medical-legal partnership had more than 50 patient referrals in the first two months, underscoring the unmet need.

"Referrals come directly from health care staff," says staff attorney, Glen Drew. "I see so many health concerns that neither doctors nor lawyers can solve on our own. This is an opportunity for us to ask the right questions and make some headway on broader social questions and problems."

Legal Aid's work in the NorthPoint Social Services building also includes an attorney-staffed economic development project that recently hosted a criminal expungement workshop. A few blocks away at 800 West Broadway, Legal Aid holds office hours several times a month for pro bono workshops, as well as a Hennepin County based project focused on eviction prevention.

Because of the partnership between neighborhood social service agencies and legal aid, northside residents can access legal help without taking extra time off work or paying for transportation downtown. They can meet with a lawyer in the same building where they receive other services, and with professionals they already trust. Read the full article in Attorney at Law Magazine: "Legal Aid and Community Partners Collaborate in North Minneapolis."

Changes Coming to DHS Appeals System

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Did you know that over 15,000 appeals are processed by the DHS Appeals Division every year? This fall, a new Enterprise Appeals Solution (EAS) system will allow agency representatives and appellants to access their appeals information and documents online. Parties will also be able to make requests, submit documents, and receive notices, decisions, and other correspondence electronically. The new system will eliminate the need for multiple databases for tracking appeals, as well as eliminate the dependency on a manual paper-based process.

Since June 2017, the EAS project team has been planning, designing, building and testing the new system. With the help of state and county partners, User Acceptance Testing (UAT) is currently in progress.  UAT is one of the last testing phases for the software, to ensure the system works well in real world scenarios. The new appeals system is an integral part of the process to modernize IT throughout the State of Minnesota.

The new Enterprise Appeals Solution (EAS) will assist thousands of state, county and tribal staff with their appeals work.  Those using EAS will include:

  • Financial Workers
  • Health Care Staff
  • Social Workers
  • Attorneys
  • Appeals Representatives
  • Managed Care Organizations

EAS will be used for all types of appeals including:

  • Cash and Food Assistance
  • Health Care Issues (eligibility, claims, prior authorization, PCA and MNChoices assessments)
  • Maltreatments
  • Disqualifications
  • Fraud Determinations
  • Social Services

The EAS will only be used for appeals heard by the Appeals Division of DHS.  The EAS will not be used for appeals under the authority of other agencies, such as the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH), or under the jurisdiction of another venue, such as district court. The Appeals Division and a subset of county and state agency users will begin piloting the system in September. Stay tuned for more information about upcoming training sessions, and when all users will begin using EAS.