CUMBERLAND COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — A Carlisle nurse may very well be dealing with practically $90,000 in debt after dropping her job in the course of the pandemic and dealing to repay her scholar loans.
Brandi Barrick has been a nurse practitioner for 9 years, beginning her profession in nursing even earlier in 2004.
In September 2019, after a yr at her new job, she signed up for the Nationwide Well being Service Corps (NHSC) Mortgage Compensation Program.
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“I had learn concerning the penalties and every part related to that and I wished to ensure that I used to be going to have the ability to proceed the contract,” she mentioned, including that was why she waited a yr earlier than signing up.
The NHSC gave her $25,000 to assist with scholar loans in alternate for working two years at an accepted clinic.
“I believed it could give my household, assist my household in the end with paying off my loans,” Barrick mentioned.
Lower than a yr later, within the spring of 2020, Barrick misplaced her job. The clinic the place she labored cited fewer sufferers because of COVID-19. Barrick struggled to discover a new job at one other accepted clinic within the Midstate
“I emailed my resumes to each single one I might discover that was inside an hour and a half that certified, and out of the six or seven, I heard again from, I imagine three of them, interviewed at two of them, and I received nowhere,” she mentioned.
In April 2020. the NHSC instructed Barrick she was in breach of her contract. Their on-line estimator instructed her she might owe virtually $90,000 in penalties.
“I had no concept what we had been going to do,” Barrick mentioned.
The NHSC mentioned they might assist her search for a job, however it won’t be native. In emails to Barrick, the NHSC mentioned Barrick “agreed to serve in a [Health Professional Shortage Area…without geographic limitation.” However, Barrick said moving is not an option.
“My husband, he had a history of kidney cancer and we ended up finding out that it had returned,” she said.
The NHSC sent Barrick two approved sites where she could apply — in Illinois and California.
“Both of which are very far away from our friends and family who we rely on for support with my husband’s health and my son,” she said.
Barrick decided to apply for a permanent waiver which would release her from her contract. A spokesperson for the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), which runs the NHSC, said the legal requirements for permanent waivers “only allow them in very rare circumstances.”
“She told me on the phone, you won’t be approved,” Barrick said, but added she applied anyway.
The NHSC policy says a waiver may be granted if finishing a contract or paying the penalties is “(1) impossible or (2) would involve extreme hardship.” The organization does consider terminal illness in the family, but in July 2020, Barrick’s request for a waiver was denied. Instead, she was granted a one-year suspension of her contract.
“That just prolongs it,” she said.
Barrick renewed her suspension in July 2021, and she plans to request another one in 2022, but she is still not sure what to do long-term.
“If I don’t get approved for the suspension, then we’ll probably end up having to lose our house and everything else because there’s no way we can afford $85,000 plus interest,” she said.
After everything she has gone through in the last two years, Barrick said she regrets signing up for the Loan Repayment Program at all.
“It was the worst thing I have ever done,” she said.
Barrick is not the only person impacted by this. An HRSA spokesperson said the organization is trying to accommodate as many contract suspensions as possible due to the pandemic, and granting renewals when needed.