Pennsylvania nurses could get up to $ 7,500 of their student loans repaid with COVID-19 relief dollars

Registered nurses in Pennsylvania may soon have some of their student loan debt repaid.

One-time student loan cancellation program will provide up to $ 7,500 in debt reduction under a program that the Pennsylvania Higher Education Aid Agency Board of Directors has approved Thursday.

The Commonwealth Student Aid Program for Nurses comes under the direction of Governor Tom Wolf using $ 5 million from the state’s share of the US bailout dollars. This money can be used to meet emerging public health needs related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Wolf administration hopes this debt relief will help the state deal with its nursing shortage that has worsened during the pandemic.

Across Pennsylvania and across the country, nursing shortages have affected the level of care patients receive, ranging from longer wait times in emergency rooms to rushed or reduced care as officers organizations are trying to deal with the influx of patients that the pandemic has brought through the doors of their hospital or facility.

According to American Association of Colleges of Nursing, US nursing programs produce approximately 170,000 nurses per year. However, 80,000 qualified applicants were turned down in 2019 due to insufficient teaching staff.

This loan cancellation program is intended to be a way of raising concerns about the number of nurses available to work in the Commonwealth and attracting others to the profession in the hope of future programs. financial aid, said Elizabeth McCloud, PHEAA’s vice president of state grants and special programs.

Selected nurses will receive relief of up to $ 2,500 per year for each year of work, starting in 2020, for a period of up to three years. Applications will be available via pheaa.org/slrn starting January 1 and will be accepted until March 1. This web page will also provide more information about the program.

“Few people deserve more financial help than the nurses in Pennsylvania who have worked so selflessly on the front lines to care for our sick and injured despite the many risks of COVID,” said County Representative Mike Peifer. of R-Pike, who chairs the PHEAA Board of Directors.

Based on the level of interest in this Pennsylvania nurses debt relief program expressed following last month’s announcement that it was on the horizon, PHEAA officials predict that demand will exceed the dollars available.

To address this issue, Waynesburg University Chancellor Timothy Thyreen, who chairs the board’s aid coordination and needs analysis committee, said beneficiaries will be randomly selected from a to ensure that each geographic region of the Commonwealth receives an equitable distribution of program dollars.

“We wanted to make sure that the distribution of financial aid was as fair as possible, as nurses from all parts of the Commonwealth worked altruistically to care for patients throughout the pandemic,” the spokesperson said. from PHEAA, Keith New. “By proportionately sampling qualified applicants from each region of Pennsylvania and providing student loan relief accordingly, we can achieve geographic equity.”

Specifically, he said applications received during the three-month window will be grouped into regions of the state based on the county of the applicant’s residence. Then, each geographic region will have a proportional sample of qualified candidates selected. For example, if 12% of applicants live in a particular region, then 12% of recipients will be randomly selected from that region.

Program rules require that student loan payments be made directly to federal or private loan officers on behalf of the recipient. Parent loans are not eligible. The total amount of the loan cancellation will not exceed the outstanding balance at the time of application and payment of relief funds.

Eligible applicants must be licensed by the Department of State and include registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, certified registered nurse practitioners, and those who worked in person at a qualified nursing facility who began work before December 31. of this year.

Qualified nursing facilities include, but are not limited to, assisted living facilities, home care agencies, home care agencies, hospitals, independent living programs for the elderly, long-term care facilities , personal care homes and preschools in 12 schools.

In addition, employers will be required to certify the candidate’s employment by indicating that he or she worked the equivalent of more than 20 hours per week, on average over the 12-month calendar year.

Senator Vince Hughes, D-Philadelphia, another member of the PHEAA board of directors, called the program a “down payment for frontline nurses whose dedication over the past year and more has not passed. unnoticed “.

He added, “Our goal is for this program to show frontline nurses that we appreciate them and the hard work they do every day.

Jan Murphy can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @JanMurphy.

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