NJ Citizen Action Hosts 12th Annual Financial Justice Summit

Participants applaud sweeping overhaul of the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, call for more reforms

Newark, NJ  Oct 6, 2021 — New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Acting Director David Uejio joined policy experts, advocates, and other agency and elected officials from New Jersey and around the country for the second day of New Jersey Citizen Action’s 12th Annual Financial Justice Summit. 

Conference speakers highlighted programs and legislation that could provide relief for the COVID housing crisis and solutions for countless Americans burdened with medical debt, consumer debt, student debt, and other financial hardships.  Advocates and policy experts praised the US Department of Education’s recent announcement of a massive overhaul of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF).  

“Student debt amounts to $1.5 trillion nationally and more than $46 billion in New Jersey alone. This crisis is having a disastrous impact on the lives of millions of Americans. State and national officials attending events like the Summit to educate the public is exactly what led to the policy announcement we heard today about the PSLF,” said Beverly Brown Ruggia, Financial Justice Program Director for NJ Citizen Action. “This Summit provides the public with the information they need to advocate for this kind of policy change. This PSLF reform will mean that teachers, nurses, service members and millions of workers serving on the front lines of the pandemic will be recognized and compensated for the essential public services they provide.” 

“For more than a decade, we have heard from borrowers who were misled about how to access their right to Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Borrowers who did everything right, who did everything we asked of them, had the rug pulled out from under them when denied loan forgiveness,” commented Bonnie Latreille, the US Dept. of Education Federal Student Aid Ombudsman, on the PSLF reforms. “Today’s actions acknowledge the struggle of these borrowers who have spent years serving their community, and finally delivers on the promise of relief.” 

Summit speakers also addressed the ongoing housing security crisis caused by the COVID pandemic and the Delta variant, as well as other systemic cracks in the social safety net that disproportionately hurt communities of color. 

“Systemic racial income inequity and wealth gaps mean that Black and Brown Americans are disproportionately impacted negatively by both manmade and natural disasters. But the list of Americans vulnerable to financial, health and housing insecurity has grown because of we lack affordable housing for low- and moderate – income families, expanded debt, and increasingly predatory financial services industries,” said Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, NJ Citizen Action Executive Director. “Forums like the Summit are essential to examining and solving these persistent problems.” 

Summit panel discussions also covered COVID housing relief for renters and homeowners, as well as medical debt, dept collection and credit reporting. 

“It was a great pleasure and honor to be with such a distinguished group of individuals and experts discussing the housing challenge in New Jersey and nationwide. They provided a wealth of information that could help thousands of folks looking for housing relief,” said Eric Dobson, Deputy Director of Fair Share Housing Center. 

“Every year, millions of consumers find significant errors in their credit reports that can affect their eligibility for mortgages, consumer loans and credit cards, and the interest rates they will pay,” said Chuck Bell, Programs Director for Consumer Reports. “Those errors can be extremely difficult and time-consuming to correct. We urge Congress to pass pending bills to fix the broken system for reporting credit disputes, and create a centralized portal where consumers can obtain their credit scores for free.” 

The Summit concluded with a panel on innovations in banking and finance which touched on guaranteed income pilot in Newark and financial technology, or “fintech”, and with remarks from Governor Murphy. 

“As the nation’s leaders debate proposed reforms and polices addressing these important issues that impact our daily lives, such as President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, we hope the experts, officials and advocates who spoke at the Summit have educated us all, so we can advocate for ourselves, our families and our communities in pursuit of financial security and financial justice. The PSLF reform is a result of citizens standing up and demanding change,” continued Salowe-Kaye

Both day one and day two of the Summit are available for viewing on NJ Citizen Action’s Facebook page.

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New Jersey Citizen Action is a statewide advocacy and empowerment organization that advances social, racial and economic justice for all, while also meeting the pressing needs of low- and moderate-income New Jerseyans through education and direct services.