The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency said it received nearly 5,000 applications in less than a month.
YORK, Pa. — The current high number of COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania means long hours and extended days for nurses. However, the Wolf administration has announced that help is on the horizon in the form of a $5 million student loan relief program for nurses.
Funding for the project comes from President Biden’s US bailout. The Wolf administration appointed the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) to administer the program.
“The purpose of the program…as the Governor stated, is to help recognize those nurses [and] reward them for their sacrifices,” said Keith New, a PHEAA spokesperson.
Selected nurses will be eligible to receive up to $7,500 to help reduce their student loan debt. PHEAA believes the program provides an incentive for nurses to stay in health care.
“Some of these nurses might be reaching points of exhaustion,” New said. “So it’s also a way to encourage them to stay in the profession, if they’re considering leaving the profession.”
State officials announced the program in November 2021, and applications were rolled out in late December. Since then, PHEAA has received 4,800 applications and thousands more have expressed interest.
The demand comes as no surprise to lawmakers.
“I think we knew that going into this, when we were sitting down with the PHEAA reps and working with them on coming up with this [bill], from the beginning, I’ve been saying $5 million is a start…it’s not the end,” said Sen. Maria Collett (D – Bucks, Montgomery).
The Pennsylvania State Nurses Association also agreed, saying:
“The Pennsylvania State Nurses Association (PSNA) strongly supports the creation of the Student Loan Assistance Program for Nurses. According to recent articles, the program has already attracted more than 4,800 applications. Several thousand more are expected before program applications close on March 1. Although $5 million was a good start, the initiative will need more funding to have an impact. The General Assembly must allocate funds to increase the capacity of our world-class nursing schools. The PSNA thanks the Governor, along with members of the General Assembly, for recognizing and respecting the profession through incentives to recruit and retain nurses in Pennsylvania. »
To be eligible for the program, nurses must:
- Be authorized by the State Department of the Palestinian Authority.
- Be a resident of PA (on date of application and annual loan relief payments).
- Work in a PA-qualified nursing facility (employment must have commenced before December 31, 2021).
- Perform job-related tasks that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic
- Worked a minimum of 1,250 combined hours in the qualifying 12-month calendar year.
- Have outstanding eligible student loan debt (as of the date of application and annual loan relief payments).
Nurses have until March to apply. For more details, click here.
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