University News

Center for Social Justice Receives Grant to Continue Consumer Debt Initiative

Published: November 17, 2020 | Categories: Law, All News
Close up of credit cards

The WNE Center for Social Justice is pleased to announce that the MassMutual Foundation has renewed its commitment to sustaining the Consumer Debt Initiative (CDI) at the university for the next two years. The CDI is the Western New England University School of Law's in-house pro bono economic justice project, spearheaded by the Center for Social Justice Director, Ariel Clemmer. The renewal is a grant of nearly $440,000 over the next two years to support the costs associated with operating and promoting the work of the CDI.

"The MassMutual Foundation is proud to support and help sustain initiatives that make a meaningful difference and truly deliver impact in the community," said Dennis Duquette, President of the MassMutual Foundation. "The work of the Consumer Debt Initiative connects local residents with free, quality legal guidance on matters that can change lives."

According to the Urban Institute, 50% of people in Hampden County neighborhoods of color have a debt in collection, the highest of any county in the state. The CDI serves self-represented litigants who are defending credit card collection actions filed by debt buyers in the Springfield District Court Small Claims session. Students, faculty, and other volunteers provide counsel and legal advice, negotiate with opposing counsel, draft settlement agreements, and may appear on behalf of consumers for hearings and trials.

"A 10-minute hearing could change someone's life and their ability to get loans, rent an apartment, and provide for their family," says Clemmer. "In pandemic times these needs have grown exponentially. While I know that there is much work ahead, we are so honored to be able to progress toward change in partnership with the MassMutual Foundation."