Board members of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) have approved a program to provide up to $7,500 in student loan forgiveness to Commonwealth nurses.
The board on Thursday approved the Student Loan Relief Program for Nurses to provide $5 million in debt relief to nurses amid state and national staffing shortages that s is worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The program is funded using $5 million from the state’s federal American Rescue Plan Act funds, funds intended to address public health needs related to the pandemic.
Selected nurses will receive up to $2,500 per year for three years on the job, beginning in 2020. Eligible applicants must be licensed by the Department of State, be a resident of Pennsylvania, and begin work by Dec. 31 . The program is open to registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, certified registered nurse practitioners, and those who have worked in qualified nursing facilities and schools.
Applicants must have worked 20 hours or more per week on average for one year to qualify.
“Pennsylvania nurses have been instrumental in the Commonwealth’s response to COVID-19, from bedside care to educating our communities, to supporting the Commonwealth’s cutting-edge vaccine distribution efforts. Gov. Tom Wolf said in September when announcing the plan. “My administration is thrilled to help facilitate this initiative, which will not only provide a much-needed boost to nurses on the front lines of this pandemic, but will also help rebuild a strong workforce of future healthcare workers. .
PHEAA is expected to begin accepting applications through its website from January 1. The application window will remain open until March 1.
If the number of applicants exceeds the funds available, PHEAA plans to randomly select recipients through a process that distributes funds geographically by region across the Commonwealth.
The program will make loan repayments directly to federal or private loan providers on behalf of recipients, although loans to parents are not eligible. Payments also cannot exceed applicants’ outstanding student loan balances.
“Few people are more deserving of financial assistance than the nurses in Pennsylvania who have worked so selflessly on the front lines caring for our sick and injured despite the many risks of COVID,” said Rep. Mike Peifer, R-Pike, President of PHEAA. advice, according to PennLive.
The loan forgiveness is Pennsylvania’s latest effort to address a nursing shortage that began before the pandemic and has only gotten worse. Wolf granted nearly 100 waivers in 2020 to ease rules for healthcare workers to ease the burden on hospitals, vaccination clinics and long-term care facilities.
The waivers allowed out-of-state and retired professionals, as well as those with expired licenses, to treat patients in Pennsylvania. Wolf also expanded who can administer the COVID-19 vaccine, Spotlight PA reported.
The waivers were set to expire on September 30, but the General Assembly extended dozens of waivers for the Department of Health, Department of Human Services, and Office of Business and Professional Affairs through March at the request of trustees. hospitals and health officials, according to the news site.