COVID-19 community updates

Published: 4/23/2020 6:57:16 PM
Modified: 4/23/2020 6:57:06 PM
Student loan relief

The Massachusetts Division of Banks has joined a multistate initiative to secure payment relief options for Massachusetts student loan borrowers and issued a consumer advisory with important information and resources for private student loan borrowers.

Through this initiative, DOB has secured relief options with 15 private student loan servicers to expand on the protections the federal government granted to federal student loan borrowers. These new options stand to benefit over 182,000 Massachusetts borrowers with privately held student loans.

This response builds on the federal CARES Act, which provided much needed relief for students with federal loans, including the suspension of monthly payments, interest and involuntary collection activity until Sept. 30, 2020, as well as the recently announced Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s deferment of payments in its No-Interest Loan Program until Aug. 1, 2020.

Under this initiative, borrowers with commercially-owned Federal Family Education Program Loans or privately held student loans who are struggling to make their payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic will be eligible for expanded relief. Borrowers in need of assistance must immediately contact their student loan servicer to identify the options that are appropriate to their circumstances. Relief options include:

■Providing a minimum of 90 days of forbearance

■Waiving late payment fees

■Ensuring that no borrower is subject to negative credit reporting

■Ceasing debt collection lawsuits for 90 days

■Working with borrowers to enroll them in other borrower assistance programs, such as income based repayment.

Additional information and resources, including a full list of participating private student loan servicers, are included in the Division’s Consumer Advisory. 

Children’s mental health support

“Teens, Tweens, & Quarantines” is a Zoom platform presentation for parents and caregivers focusing on the impact of COVID-19 on children to be offered live on Tuesday, April 28, at 4 p.m.

Local youth-serving organizations have teamed up to offer an online forum that aims to provide parents with vital information to support their children’s mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a dynamic fashion, this forum will:

■ Address the teen/tween brain;

<sbull value="sbull"><text xmlns="urn:schemas-teradp-com:gn4tera"></text></sbull>Explain why this pandemic is so difficult for this age group;

■ Identify the process of loss as it relates to teens during COVID-19;

■ Discuss developmental issues related to independence, autonomy, privacy;

■ Offer suggestions parents can implement immediately.

Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions and hear practical steps they can take in real time. Presenters are Jon Mattleman, New England clinical director from Minding Your Mind, with support from Kristal Cleaver, director of community education from Clinical Support Options.

“There can be no doubt that challenges such as anxiety and depression are accompanying this pandemic and the resulting quarantining. Teens and tweens are highly reactive to the world in general,” said Mattleman. “The coronavirus has resulted in significant losses that parents must acknowledge and address ... all in an effort to diminish the burden of their trauma now and in the future.”

The forum has been organized by the SPIFFY Coalition, Northwestern district attorney’s office, Northampton and South Hadley prevention coalitions, Easthampton Healthy Youth Coalition and Quaboag Hills Substance Use Alliance.

Minding Your Mind provides mental health education to adolescents, teens and young adults, parents and caregivers, teachers and school administrators to end the stigma and destructive behaviors often associated with mental health challenges and conditions. For more information about Minding Your Mind:

The forum is free and open to all, but participants must register, by going to and providing name and email information.

HCC registering for summer, fall classes

Registration is now open for both summer and fall 2020 classes at Holyoke Community College, presenting a smart and affordable option for college students who may be stuck at home now and unsure of their academic plans for September.

Summer courses at HCC begin June 1 and are offered in two four-week sessions and one seven-week session, fully online.

Summer Session I classes run from June 1 to June 25 or July 1; Summer Session II classes from July 6 to July 30 or Aug. 5. Full-term summer session classes begin June 1 and end July 15-17.  

“This summer HCC is offering as dynamic a schedule of courses as ever,” said Rachel Rubinstein, HCC vice president of academic and student affairs. “The only difference is that, because of health and safety concerns related to COVID-19, all of our summer classes will be offered online this year, with very few exceptions.”

Those exceptions are limited to hands-on culinary arts courses in food preparation and service planned for Summer Session II that are scheduled to meet at the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute on Race Street, but those courses may need to be adjusted, depending on lingering concerns over the coronavirus.

HCC’s summer 2020 program includes nearly 100 credit classes in accounting, American Sign Language, anthropology, art, biology, business, chemistry, communications, criminal justice, culinary arts, earth science, economics, education, engineering, English, environmental science, forensic science, general studies, gerontology, health, health information management, history, human services, humanities, law, management, marketing, math, music, nursing, nutrition, philosophy, political science, psychology, SEM (science, engineering and math), social science, sociology, Spanish, and sustainability studies.

For summer, HCC is offering one-credit courses in subjects such as professional etiquette, business ethics, and money management: three-credit general education classes in English composition and college math, as well as very popular courses in accounting and psychology; four-credit lab science courses in biology, chemistry, sustainability studies; and much much more, Rubinstein said.

Registration is also open for the fall 2020 semester. At this point, HCC is planning to offer fall courses on campus if current restrictions are lifted and conditions allow while also making contingency plans to offer instruction remotely if necessary.

“While we hope to resume face-to-face instruction in the fall, we have to have flexible teaching plans in place,” Rubinstein said. “We don’t want students to fall behind in their academic plans. If they have to stay home, they can still earn credits toward a certificate or degree here online. That applies to HCC students as well as students attending other colleges who don’t want to interrupt their studies and may be looking for other options closer to their home communities.”

Chromebooks and Wi-Fi hotspots are available for loan from the HCC Library for students who need them. 

For more information, please visit or or call 413-552-2321.


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