Please email with any questions!
- Q. Do I have to work in DC?
Yes. You must be working as a lawyer, for an “eligible” employer that provides civil legal services to low income or underserved DC residents in the District of Columbia.
- Q. How do I know if an employer is “eligible” under the guidelines?
The DC Bar Foundation keeps the most updated list of eligible employers here. Program guidelines provide that applicants must be employed full time or part time with a non-profit organization in the District of Columbia that provides civil legal services to the District’s low income or underserved and that is eligible for funding from the DC Bar Foundation. Employers not currently on the list must apply to be added via an application released in September and due in late October, every year. There is only one application cycle per year.
- Q. My employer is not on the list of eligible employers, but I think it qualifies. What can I do?
If you work for a DC-based, non-profit, tax-exempt charitable organization that provides civil legal services to the District’s low-income or underserved residents and that is eligible for funding from the DC Bar Foundation, your employer may qualify as an eligible employer for LRAP. Your employer must apply via an application released once a year in September and due late October. For the 2015 LRAP application process, an employer must submit the Eligible Employer Application, found here, by 5:00 pm on Tuesday, October 28 to email@example.com. The application asks for a description of the direct civil legal services that the organization provides to DC residents, income restrictions for its clients, and the number of clients, by residency, the organization served in its last fiscal year, among other questions. Your employer must also provide a copy of its IRS letter (that proves your employer is a non-profit, tax-exempt charitable organization) and its District of Columbia business license/certificate (that proves your employer conducts business within DC). Late applications or requests by e-mail or phone will not be considered.
- Q. Do I have to live in DC?
It depends. There are two sources of funding for the LRAP, and different rules apply. When you apply, the DC Bar Foundation will decide in which program to place you. You must live in DC to be eligible for an LRAP under the publicly funded LRAP, called DC LRAP. However, under the privately funded LRAP, called DCBF LRAP, you can live in DC or in the surrounding jurisdictions as long as you meet all other eligibility requirements. You must work in DC to qualify under either program. The major difference between the two programs is the residency requirement, which is a statutory requirement for the publicly funded LRAP. Read the 2015 LRAP Guidelines, found here, for futher information on the differences between the two programs and other eligibility requirements.
- Q. Does the income cap apply only to my adjusted gross income?
The $79,567.50 salary cap for 2015 (75,000 X 3% COLA, effective October 1st, 2013) applies to the applicant’s individual income. At the same time, the DC LRAP statute requires us to look at your adjusted gross income (AGI), which plainly may be affected by other income (i.e. inheritance) or your spouse’s income. It is helpful in all cases for us to know the true economic circumstances of each applicant so we can be in a position to apply the funds first to those with greatest need. Thus, if an applicant has help in meeting their expenses – from a spouse, domestic partner, trust fund, or any other source – we should know that. There is a question on the application that allows applicants to tell us about their personal circumstances. We have chosen an application process that is efficient and not too cumbersome; at the same time, we have an important stewardship role with these limited funds. We are looking to each person who applies for an LRAP to be forthcoming with us and to share our goal of ensuring the integrity and longevity of this program.
The DCBF Board of Directors has adopted the policy that allows applicants to have a joint AGI that is no more than $100,000 (with a 3% COLA, effective October 1, 2014) above the fiscal year's income cap. The joint AGI cap for 2015 LRAP is $179,567.50. In October 2015, the joint AGI cap allowed will increase to $184,954.53. No matter what, your individual salary cannot exceed $79,567.50 under any circumstances to be eligible for 2015 LRAP.
In addition to the AGI, the guidelines state that "at a minimum, each applicant must provide his or her salary information for the loan year from the qualifying employer and must tell the Foundation about income from other sources.” That would seem to sweep in the lottery, side job, etc. issues – if an applicant is getting or has access to funds from other sources, we’d like to know about it.
As to other ‘life circumstances’ that may make your personal situation one presenting more or less hardship than another applicant’s – the application has a question that allows individuals to tell us anything they think we need to know about their personal circumstances – an additional effort to achieve fairness in making loan decisions.
- Q. What happens if my salary increases beyond the salary cap during the loan period?
To remain eligible for 2015 LRAP, your salary cannot exceed $79,567.50 from January 1 to September 30, 2015 and $81,954.53 from October 1 to December 31, 2015. The salary cap increases by 3% every October. If your salary increases to an amount higher than the current salary cap, you must repay the amount of your LRAP award you have received for that year. The application for LRAP funding makes it clear that it is your responsibility to tell us as soon as your salary changes so we do not give assistance to those who become ineligible for LRAP.
- Q. What if I get a job with another legal services organization not in DC, am I still eligible?
If you change jobs for whatever reason and are no longer employed by an eligible employer, you will lose eligibility for continued payments, future loans, and loan forgiveness. You will also have to repay any loan amounts that have not been forgiven. This means you will have to repay all of the amounts that you have received from the DC Bar Foundation up until the point you become ineligible. There is no pro rata forgiveness. To get the full benefit of LRAP, you must maintain your employment with an eligible employer for the full loan year (January 1 – December 31). Otherwise, you will have to repay all loan amounts that you have received.
- Q. Am I still eligible if there is a break in service when I move between eligible employers?
It is likely that a reasonable break in service as you move from one employer to another will not be a problem. It is important for applicants and LRAP participants to advise us about any changes in status. The DC Bar Foundation has the discretion to make that determination. Let us know right away so there won’t be any problems.
- Q. Will I still be eligible under the program if I take leave from my job?
You need to tell us as soon as possible if your work status changes in any way: shifting to part-time or taking leave for any reason. Leave, such as family, medical, and armed services leave, will be credited as qualifying employment for up to six months. The DC Bar Foundation has the discretion to waive the six-month limit. You must notify the DC Bar Foundation if you are taking any such leave, 30 days before the first day of your leave.
- Q. How much will my LRAP award be?
No award can exceed $12,000 a year, but also, you cannot receive an LRAP award that exceeds the minimum amount you are required to pay on your education loans. In other words, what you pay each month in educational loan payments is the MAXIMUM you are eligible to receive, up to $1,000 per month. If you are not making regular payments on a particular loan, you will not receive funding for this loan. The program is designed to pay up to $1,000 per participant per month for eligible loans each LRAP year. "Eligible loans" differ between the two programs: the publicly funded DC LRAP covers only law school loans, whereas the privately funded DCBF LRAP covers all educational loans. Another difference between the two programs is that the DC LRAP has a lifetime cap of $60,000 or your law school loan owed, whichever is less.
In summary, the actual amount you would receive depends on: (1) the minimum amount you are required pay on your loans each month; (2) the purpose of the loans; (3) whether you qualify for DC LRAP, DCBF LRAP, or both; (4) the total amount available under the relevant funding stream each year; (5) the total number of eligible participants; and (6) the discretion of the LRAP Award Committee based on the information before it at the time decisions are made.
**Please note, if your loan payments drop during the loan period (Jan 1-Dec 31), notify us immediately so we can adjust your award.
- Q. How is the monthly loan repayment amount figured?
For example, I have consolidated my loans, I’m on a 20-year repayment schedule, and my monthly amount owed is only $250. Is that the amount that the LRAP would cover or is there a possibility of LRAP covering more than my current monthly payment?
LRAP can only cover up to the minimum amount you are required to pay monthly on your eligible loans. By providing online statements, payment history, and other loan documents, you provide the DC Bar Foundation with the minimum amount due each month on your loans. We will not provide funds for potential debt service or for more than you are actually paying out each month. You must demonstrate that you are paying regularly on all loans submitted for LRAP funding by submitting a three-month payment history with your application. You will not receive funding for any loans for which you are NOT making regular payments.
It is up to each applicant/participant to decide how to manage his or her loans. Thus, if you pay $250 per month on law school loans, you are eligible for up to $250 per month from the LRAP. Note that family and other personal loans are not considered "eligible debt" under either program so your eligible debt could not be increased by including those amounts.
- Q. I used a lump sum payment to prepay my lender. Can I still receive assistance for the year?
We will consider providing assistance for the entire year if you provide documentation showing that you continue to make monthly payments. We recommend that if you find yourself with lump sums to apply to your loans (including LRAP disbursements from the DC Bar Foundation), you should ask your lender to apply such sums to the loan principal.
- Q. DCBF now asks for a payment history. Why?
Payment histories are now requested with the LRAP application, the Midyear Certification, and the End-of-Year certifications. What information is being sought?
LRAP Application: A three-month payment history is now required as part of the application, in order to gain an understanding of what payments the applicant is actually paying out each month. An applicant is NOT eligible to receive funds for a loan that is not being actively and regularly paid upon.
Midyear and End-of-Year Certifications: Six-month payment histories are required for the Midyear Certification (January to June payments) and End-of-Year Certifications (July to December payments). Payment histories submitted during the service period are reviewed to verify that the money given to the participant is going right back out in the form of regular, monthly (or quarterly) payments on eligible debt for LRAP. For example, if you have recieved $4500 for the first six months of the program, meaning $750/month, your January to June payment history at the midyear should show that $750 was paid each month on your loans, totaling $4500. DCBF reserves the right to adjust awards upon learning that regular payments are not being made on loans receiving LRAP assistance.
- Q. What if I might be eligible for another LRAP from another source, such as my law school?
All applicants must, "exhaust all other available avenues for loan repayment assistance, including through participation in any available undergraduate or law school debt-forgiveness programs,” as regulated by D.C. Code § 4-1703.03(5) “LRAP; participation eligibility.” This also includes loan repayment assistance programs provided by an applicant’s employer, fellowship, or other organizations (i.e. AmeriCorps). In addition, applicants should seek to determine their eligibility for federal loan repayment programs, including the College Cost Reduction Act and income-driven repayment plans.
It is your responsibility to determine your eligibility for and apply to all debt forgiveness programs provided by:
- Your law school;
- Other schools you attended;
- Your employer;
- A fellowship program in which you participate;
- The new federal programs (College Cost Reduction Act, and income based repayment (IBR))
You need to find out whether your law school has such a program and if so, submit a timely application. As for the other possibilities, you need to explore your eligibility and inform us about it.
DCBF will calculate your loan based on your total eligible debt service and will reduce that by the amount of any other LRAP you are awarded. For example, if you are paying $1,000 per month on your law school loans and receive an LRAP award from your law school that is equal to $600 per month, you would be eligible for an LRAP award from DCBF of up to $400 per month, the balance remaining after your other LRAP is taken into account. DCBF works with LRAP participants after an award decision is made to determine final award amounts. If you receive another LRAP award at any time of the year, it is your responsibility to inform the DC Bar Foundation so we may adjust your award. In addition to checking with your school, we recommend that you check the Equal Justice Works website as one source for this information. DCBF reserves the right to reduce awards to any applicant who fails to apply for an LRAP for which s/he might be available.
- Q. How do I handle consolidated loans on the application?
If your loans have been consolidated, when you complete the school loan information form you must identify the original amount borrowed under each of the loans consolidated and its purpose --- law school, the bar exam, other graduate school, undergraduate school. Publicly funded DC LRAP funds may be applied only to reasonable educational expenses associated with obtaining a law degree so it is very important for you to denominate which of your loans are for law school and which are for other education. Also, under DC LRAP, there is a lifetime cap of $60,000 or the outstanding amount of your law school loan, whichever is less. Thus, if your law school loan is consolidated with your undergraduate loan to total $80,000, we must know the original law school loan amount to ensure you do not exceed the lifetime cap.
- Q. Can I just provide the online printout as evidence of the status of my loans?
Yes, you may provide online statements, account summaries, and other official loan documents as evidence for the loans you're submitting for coverage by LRAP. In addition to providing the purpose* and a three-month payment history for each loan, you must make sure, however, that all of the following information is provided on the documents you submit for each loan from each lender:
1. Loan Administrator/Servicer (i.e. SallieMae, Mohela, Great Lakes, Discover, etc.)
2. Loan Type (i.e. Subsidized, Unsubsidized, Grad Plus, Private, etc.)
3. Loan Status (i.e. repayment, deferment, forbearance, etc.)
4. Original Balance
5. Current/Outstanding Balance (principal and interest)
6. Minimum amount due each month
7. Monthly due date of loan payment
Failure to provide documentation proving all of this information may result in the DC Bar Foundation not covering all of the loans that you submit for consideration.
*Purpose means the original purpose for taking out each loan (i.e. undergraduate, graduate school, law school, and/or bar study).
- Q. How are LRAP awards disbursed? Can I use the award for other financial obligations?
LRAP awards will be paid by check to the individual participant, up to four times per year. You must make timely and regular payments on your loans for the entire period that you are receiving an award from DCBF or seeking loan forgiveness. It is your responsibility to ensure that funds you need to repay your loans are not diverted to other purposes, leaving you without the means to stay current on your debt service.
- Q. Are the funds that I get from LRAP taxable income?
The DC LRAP and DCBF LRAP have been designed to fit within existing rules that would make forgiveness of LRAP loans not taxable as income. You should seek advice from a tax professional on this issue, as the DC Bar Foundation is not in a position to provide advice on tax issues.
- Q. How does the new federal legislation on Loan Repayment affect a DCBF LRAP?
It depends! The College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 may help poverty lawyers in two ways:
- It lowers monthly student loan payments on federally guaranteed student loans (Income-based repayment or IBR); and
- It cancels remaining debt for public servants after 10 years of public service employment (Loan Forgiveness for Public Service).
To find out how it affects you, we strongly recommend that you check with your law school’s financial aid office and review the information provided by Equal Justice Works.
- Q. Where can I get more information on DCBF's LRAPs?
Go to http://dcbarfoundation.org/funding-justicegrantslrapawards/lrap and click on the subsections to find out more about the DC Bar Foundation's loan repayment assistance programs. You can find current LRAP guidelines (both programs covered in one document), the eligible employer list, and information about the application process. Please read the guidelines carefully as they will answer most of your questions. If you still have questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org.