Zero balance

Don’t mind Bonita Brown. She’s just doing her “hallelujah dance.”

Brown has been celebrating ever since she learned that the outstanding balances for her federal student loans have been forgiven under a waiver that expires in October.

Brown, a mail and package information systems specialist in Washington, DC, had approximately $30,000 left to repay on the loans she took out 20 years ago.

“It was right before Memorial Day weekend that I found out I got loan forgiveness. It was a huge relief,” said Brown, who joined the Postal Service in 2002.

Brown had been diligently paying the student loans when she learned about the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, also known as PSLF.

The program was created under federal legislation that took effect in 2007 and is not part of the Biden administration’s recently announced plan to cancel student debt for some people.

PSLF forgives student loan debt for federal, state, local or tribal government employees — as well as employees of not-for-profit organizations — who have made 120 monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan while working full time for a public service employer.

However, the program has had a problematic history.

Brown, who had made more than 120 payments on her student loan, applied for PSLF relief in June 2021. But her application was rejected.

Since its implementation, only 16,000 borrowers have had loans forgiven under the program, while tens of thousands have been denied loan forgiveness despite apparently qualifying for it, according to the Department of Education.

Last September, when Brown appealed, she was told that to qualify, her federal student loans would have to be combined into a direct loan with the Department of Education.

“After that, I would have to make 120 consistent payments to be considered — basically, starting all over again — so I pretty much let it go,” she said.

Coincidentally, in October, the Biden administration launched the Limited Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program waiver, or the Limited PSLF waiver, to help borrowers while the Department of Education overhauls PSLF.

The Limited PSLF waiver allowed Brown to consolidate her loans into a direct loan with the Department of Education.

A few months later, her loans were forgiven. Her credit score also jumped from good to excellent.

“I did a hallelujah dance,” she said with a laugh.

While the Department of Education estimates the Limited PSLF waiver could help 550,000 borrowers, it may not work for everyone. For instance, borrowers with bank loans or borrowers who refinanced federal loans with private lenders don’t qualify.

Nevertheless, Brown encourages postal employees with student loans to consider applying for the waiver before it expires Oct. 31.

“The waiver made the difference for me,” she said.

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Outbound addition

The Postal Service has added USPS Returns and customer-sent packages to the Informed Delivery daily digest email.

The email’s new Outbound section includes packages that have been mailed by the customer through USPS when those packages are within three business days of their expected delivery date.

“This value-added enhancement will provide customers the convenience of monitoring their return and outbound packages via Informed Delivery, just as they do with incoming packages today,” said Bob Dixon, production technology innovation director.

Informed Delivery is a free feature that allows consumers to digitally preview their incoming mail and manage their package delivery from computers, smartphones and other devices.

Passing it on

A sales lead from a letter carrier in California has resulted in a local advertising deal worth more than $79,000 for the Postal Service.

While delivering mail on his route, Johnny Luu, who works at the Woodland Hills Post Office, found a company’s flyer inside a mailbox.

He passed the flyer onto his supervisor, who submitted the company’s information through Customer Connect, a joint USPS and National Association of Letter Carriers program that encourages participants to identify sales opportunities.

Martin Juarez, a business lead development specialist, spoke with the customer about Every Door Direct Mail, which offers businesses the opportunity to advertise in the geographic area of their choosing.

Doug Diello, a senior territory executive, followed up with the customer and closed a direct mail deal worth $79,200 in new estimated annualized revenue for the Postal Service.

Sales generated from Customer Connect leads are included in the USPS Every Lead Counts campaign to raise revenue through sales leads from employees.

“While our carriers do get to know and talk with their customers, sometimes helping them is just as simple as a carrier passing on information they just happen to come across,” said Lou DeRienzo, a small-business senior specialist at USPS headquarters in Washington, DC. “Johnny did just that — and the result is that business is able to better reach customers and USPS has gained revenue.”

The Postal Service is encouraging as many employees as possible to submit at least one lead through any of its six lead programs by Sept. 30.

The Small Business and Lead Generation Programs Blue page has more information about Customer Connect and the other employee lead programs: Business Connect, Clerks Care, Mail Handlers, Rural Reach and Submit a Lead.

Infrastructure insight

The summer edition of The Eagle, the Postal Service’s quarterly magazine, looks at improvements to the USPS network.

The cover story explains the organization’s redesign of its processing, transportation and delivery infrastructure to improve working environments, service performance and operational efficiency.

The improvements are part of Delivering for America, the Postal Service’s 10-year plan to achieve financial sustainability and service excellence.

This issue of The Eagle, which was recently mailed to employees’ homes, also describes efforts spanning more than a decade to enact postal reform legislation, another significant step toward financial stability for USPS.

The Eagle is also available on Newsroom, a USPS online news hub.