EP2 Program can help schools struggling with teacher and staff shortages

Schools across North Dakota are back in session for another academic year and, like states throughout the nation, many North Dakota school districts are struggling with teacher shortages.

Late last year, the North Dakota Education Standards and practices Board (ESPB) declared all areas in need of a having a license as in shortage.

Data from the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction finds the shortage is unequal across the state. Some counties in eastern North Dakota, especially those located between and around Fargo and Grand Forks, are able to attract applicants while other counties, including many in western North Dakota, are struggling.

The North Dakota Legislature has over the years tried to address this growing challenge through legislation aimed at student loan forgiveness for educators who teach in regions identified as having a severe teacher shortage. These actions were taken before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, which further exacerbated the problem causing many educators opting to retire or leave the profession entirely.

It’s not only teachers. Paraprofessionals and support staff have been leaving education. In several districts, absences have been especially notable among substitute teachers, custodians, and kitchen staff. A major reason for this is a disproportionately higher number of those positions are older individuals, several with with pre-existing health conditions.

LCD Group is helping with an important incentive

For some school districts, it’s an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ moment to help meet staffing needs and Lewis & Clark Development Group is playing a small but important role in helping meet the challenge.

In 2018, two years before the pandemic, LCD Group created the Essential Public Employees Program. 

Commonly known as EP2, the program provides down payment and closing cost assistance for essential public employees throughout North Dakota. 

EP2 is available to individuals employed by: City or county government, the state of North Dakota, a school district, a medical or long-term care facility, or others as determined by Lewis & Clark Development Group. 

The program offers loans of up to $10,000 with interest rates as low as two percent (2%) for up to ten years. Applicants must meet minimum down payment requirements or avoid mortgage insurance for more affordable house payments.

LCD Group Housing Director Lisa Pogatshnik says the program was created to help essential public employees purchase homes. Over the years, the program has been critical for helping locate and retain public employees in rural small towns.

“Applicants can qualify for up to $10,000 in assistance. Housing prices are significantly lower in small towns so this offers a real benefit for those who qualify, but especially for a young teacher who may be starting their career,” says Pogatshnik.

Works with any lender

According to Pogatshnik, nine EP2 loans totaling $92,000 have been distributed this fiscal year. She is wanting to get the word out.

“Back in 2020, we approved 25 EP2 loans. Demand was high during the pandemic, in large part because interest rates were historically low. While demand has leveled off a bit, the resource is there and for school districts needing to attract and retain educators, paraprofessionals, and administration, this program is about as easy as it gets to use,” she notes. 

EP2 works with any North Dakota bank or credit union. 

“Lenders who come across clients who work in school districts, for municipal governments, state government should feel free to contact us. We welcome inquiries from school districts about the program and we’re happy to help them in sharing information with their staff,” says PogatshnSet featured imageik.

Click here for more information LCD Group’s home loan programs or contact LCD Group Housing Director Lisa Pogatshnik at (701) 667-7603 or at lisa@lcdgroup.org.

Sources and Credits: North Dakota Department of Public Instruction