WASHINGTON – This week, Congressman Dave Joyce (OH-14) and Congressman Eric Swalwell (CA-15) introduced Protecting Access to Loan Forgiveness for Public Servants During the COVID-19 Pandemic Act, a bipartisan bill to ensure public servants and frontline workers whose jobs may have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic still qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program.
“Now more than ever, we need to support those who pursue careers that contribute to the health and well-being of the American people,” said Joyce, a Co-Chair of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Caucus. “While the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many of our public servants to battle this virus on the front lines, others have been temporarily furloughed or laid-off. I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan bill with Rep. Swalwell to ensure that the public servants whose livelihoods have been derailed by COVID-19 can stay on track to receive the loan forgiveness they have worked so hard for.”
“Many doctors, nurses, teachers, and other public employees have had their jobs impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Rep. Swalwell. “We made a deal that their public service could be rewarded with forgiveness of their student loans, and we should honor that deal no matter what – especially if the pandemic has thrown their livelihoods for a loop.”
The PSLF program was established by Congress in 2007 to help Americans pursue a career in public service – like teachers, nurses, police officers, social workers and others – by mitigating the burden of crippling student loan payments. The program provides forgiveness on the remaining balance of student loans to borrowers after they have made 120 qualified monthly payments on their loans while working full-time in public service. But if such borrowers lose their public service job or are furloughed, any payments made after that loss of employment do not count toward loan forgiveness.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act gave all federal student loan borrowers a break by requiring no payments from March 13 through September 30. During this period of forbearance, participants in the PSLF program are still able to count qualified payments toward their required total of 120 – unless they have temporarily lost their public-sector jobs due to the pandemic. Joyce and Swalwell’s bipartisan bill would ensure such workers can continue to count loan payments toward their total required for forgiveness under the PSLF program so long as they re-enter a public service job within six months after the end of this public health emergency. It also would require the Secretary of Education to develop and make available guidance for those who are eligible for this emergency job disruption assistance.
“The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program supported by Congressman Dave Joyce helps public safety agencies retain highly educated, highly qualified candidates, whom we might otherwise lose to the private sector,” said Painesville Police Chief Dan Waterman. “Many of our college-educated peers make a voluntary choice to forgo high paying private-sector jobs to take positions serving the public because they believe in what it means to serve the public. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program helps level the playing field and encourages top candidates to enter and remain in public service. Without such a program, those same passionate, caring, educated individuals, who are integral to our growth and future of our communities, could be lost to us.”
“Due to the challenging economic conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic, individuals and families are facing significant financial hardship and educators are not excluded. Across the nation, school districts are already facing substantial budget shortfalls and up to 1.9 million jobs in education are in jeopardy.” said Marc Egan, Director of Government Relations, National Education Association. “While Congress must continue to invest in public education to mitigate potential layoffs, Reps. Joyce and Swalwell’s legislation would ensure any educator who loses their job due to the public health crisis, would not lose their progress towards achieving Public Service Loan Forgiveness and protect their access to the program. NEA commends both Members for their ongoing commitment to educators and public service workers.”
Joyce has long been a supporter of the PSLF program. Earlier this year, he and Congressman Brendan Boyle (PA-02) introduced bipartisan legislation to update and improve the program after a report from the Government Accountability Office found that current deficiencies and administrative flaws in the PSLF program have resulted in upwards of 99% of applicants being denied loan forgiveness. You can find out more about that bill here.