Washington, DC – Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Alex Padilla (D-CA) introduced the Student Debt Forgiveness for Frontline Health Workers Act to forgive the student loan debt of frontline health professionals. The legislation honors the sacrifice of health care workers and the enormous burden of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We owe so much to our health care workers – something we grew to appreciate even more during the COVID-19 crisis,” said Whitehouse. “This legislation honors the contributions of these public servants by helping them wipe the slate clean of student loan debt.”
“Our brave frontline health care workers have fought tirelessly throughout the pandemic to ensure that our communities stay safe, often putting their own health at risk,” said Padilla. “Unfortunately, far too many of these workers are burdened by crippling student loan debt—that is simply unacceptable. We must work to bolster this critical workforce and ensure we don’t continue to face the staffing shortages that this pandemic exposed. That’s why I am co-leading the Student Loan Forgiveness for Frontline Health Workers Act to forgive the student loan debt of the very people who have been essential to our response and recovery.”
The bill recognizes the service of health care workers who have made significant contributions during the pandemic by forgiving their outstanding medical and professional training loans. Health professionals who provided COVID-19 patient care, performed medical research or vaccine testing, or enhanced the capacity of the health care system to respond to this urgent crisis would be eligible.
“Nurses, health techs and other frontline healthcare professionals devote their careers to caring for others, often at the expense of their own personal safety, their financial wellbeing, and the mental and physical wellness of their own families,” said Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers. “During the COVID crisis, in particular, they have worked tirelessly to save lives and provide comfort and care during a national emergency. But healthcare degrees and training for these careers come at a high cost, and as the demands on frontline healthcare workers continue to grow, these heroes are deserving of more than thanks and prayers. The Student Debt Forgiveness for Frontline Health Workers Act is an important step, helping our frontline workers address their student debt burden and continue their important work in our communities.”
- Directs the Department of Education to form a program to forgive frontline health care workers’ outstanding federal loans, and the Treasury Department in consultation with the Education Department to form a program to forgive private loans;
- Excludes the amount of forgiven loans from taxable income;
- Establishes an open application process through an independent interagency council for individuals whose work may not fit the definition of “frontline health care worker” to claim eligibility for loan forgiveness;
- Requires public notice of the loan forgiveness program and processes to ensure awareness of prospective applicants;
- Sets no loan amount cap; and
- Makes loan forgiveness eligibility applicable to both volunteers and paid employees.
Rich Davidson (Whitehouse), 202-300-2538
Tess Whittlesey (Padilla), (202) 224-3553