Commentary: U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) joined a group of 10 Senators in introducing the Strengthening Loan Forgiveness for Public Servants During the COVID-19 Crisis Act, legislation that would provide student loan debt relief to public health workers, police officers, and others who dedicate their careers to public service. Many of these public servants have been playing a central role in helping communities in New Mexico and across the country respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bill expands the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLFP) to provide meaningful student loan debt relief to those employed in public service. It would eliminate uncertainty for borrowers, and further incentivize public service by allowing future borrowers to receive forgiveness for their loans in qualifying intervals. Specifically, it would allow more individuals interested in public service to dedicate a few years and receive a percentage of their student loan debt forgiven instead of having to commit to 10 years of service, which is the current standard. It also provides support for public servants and frontline workers by allowing any gaps in service caused by layoffs, furloughs or forced absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic to count under the program, as long as these workers return to public service after the pandemic ends.
“We must continue to show support for our dedicated public servants many of whom are on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis – not just with empty words but policies that will truly make a difference in their day-to-day lives,” said Udall. “By expanding the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, this bill will provide student debt relief to the nurses, teachers, first responders and other public servants whose employment has been affected by the pandemic, while also encouraging others to serve their communities by easing the burden of future student loan payments.”
In addition to Udall, the legislation is co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).