QUEENSBURY, NY (March 10, 2022) – Hudson Headwaters Health Network recently awarded more than $1.7 million in student loan assistance to 195 staff members. Made possible by an external grant, the Tuition Retention Reimbursement CV-19 Program was available to all Network employees with outstanding student loan debt. Recipients commit to a year of continued employment with the Network in exchange for the assistance.
This program is a direct result of feedback from the Hudson Headwaters’ annual employee satisfaction survey. “Hudson Headwaters is constantly looking to identify benefits that provide value to our employees,” said Executive Vice President of Human Resources Sue Corney. “Because this grant could be used for employee retention purposes, we knew it was the perfect time to help address the anxiety that many staff had reported due to their student loan debt.”
Staff in good standing were eligible to apply for up to $10,500. The amount was spread evenly over 2021 and 2022 so staff could take advantage of the annual $5,250 tax-free amount allowed for employer tuition assistance. Of the total employees that received assistance, 41 were able to completely pay off their student loan debt.
“As a recipient of student loan payment assistance from Hudson Headwaters, I am now officially student loan debt-free,” shared Charly Mallet, program manager, Hudson Headwaters Pathways. “I was already grateful to be an employee of the Network, but this just confirms how great of a place it is to work and that the wellbeing of their employees is a priority. A weight has been lifted and now I can focus more on other milestones, such as saving for our upcoming wedding.”
Tara Relation, RN, a care manager at Plattsburgh Family Health, calls the student debt relief “life-changing.” She was able to cut her student loan debt in half which she reports resulted in an improved credit score and lower interest rate for the purchase of a new home. Relation describes the student loan assistance as “an investment in my future and my daughter’s.” Relation is also a recipient of the Network’s Nursing Education Advancement Program that covers up to $50,000 in tuition costs for nurses pursuing advanced degrees.
Hudson Headwaters staff have served on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic since the beginning and have helped execute the Network’s extensive testing and vaccination efforts. Through February 2022, Hudson Headwaters staff have helped administer more than 196,500 tests and more than 34,000 vaccine doses—all while serving a record-number of patients for primary and urgent care appointments.
“While it would be impossible to repay the dedication of our staff for their heroic efforts during the ongoing pandemic, the Network is committed to actively exploring opportunities to support them—student loan repayment and educational assistance programs being just two examples,” explained CEO Dr. Tucker Slingerland. “Investing in the workforce that empowers the region’s largest advanced primary care network is an investment in us all.”
In addition to the student loan repayment assistance, Hudson Headwaters is using grant funding to support COVID-19 hazard pay for health center staff. This financial support is in recognition of the additional demands upon the Network due to the ongoing pandemic response efforts.