Is there any assistance or student loan forgiveness for front-line healthcare workers or first responders during the coronavirus pandemic?
While there is not any specific loan forgiveness for front-line healthcare workers, healthcare workers may be able to qualify for student loan forgiveness for doctors, student loan forgiveness for nurses or public service loan forgiveness.
Student Loan Forgiveness Programs for Healthcare Workers
Healthcare workers who have federal student loans may currently take advantage of the payment pause and interest waiver on all loans owned by the Department of Education. The payment pause and interest waiver is part of a COVID-19 relief measure that is in effect through at least January 31, 2022.
When the relief period is over and they have made 120 qualifying payments, healthcare workers may qualify for Public Student Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). During the payment pause, borrowers will receive credit toward PSLF as though they made on-time monthly payments in the correct amount.
Other student loan forgiveness options specifically for healthcare professionals include federal programs for:
These programs are specifically for federal student loans, and do not apply to private student loans.
Refinancing Student Loans
If healthcare workers don’t qualify for forgiveness, they may consider refinancing their student loans. With interest rates at all-time lows, borrowers who refinance now could potentially save thousands of dollars over time.
Keep in mind, however that federal student loans can’t be refinanced into another federal student loan. In other words, once you refinance to a private student loan you lose all of your federal student loan protections. These include:
- COVID-19 relief payment pause and interest waiver
- Income-driven repayment options
- Public Student Loan Forgiveness
- Deferment options
Legislative Proposals for Frontline Healthcare Workers
There were a few legislative proposals which would provide student loan forgiveness for front-line healthcare workers. However, these proposals died in Congress and were not incorporated into another COVID-19 relief package.
Student Loan Forgiveness for Frontline Health Workers Act
There was a legislative proposal for student loan forgiveness for first responders and front-line healthcare workers, the Student Loan Forgiveness for Frontline Health Workers Act (H.R. 6720).
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY-12) introduced this legislation on May 5, 2020 in the U.S. House of Representatives. The legislation would forgive the outstanding federal and private student loan debt of front-line healthcare workers who are treating patients with coronavirus. The loan forgiveness will be tax-free.
The legislation defines front-line healthcare workers as including doctors, medical residents, medical interns, medical fellows, nurses, home healthcare workers, mental health professionals and emergency medical services workers. In addition, laboratory workers involved in coronavirus testing and medical researchers who conduct research concerning the prevention, treatment and cure of coronavirus.
Administrative staff who don’t treat or transport patients are not eligible. Veterinarians are not eligible.
However, despite having 20 cosponsors, the legislation died in a previous Congress.
The American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) endorsed the legislation.
Opportunities for Heroes Act of 2020
The Opportunities for Heroes Act of 2020 (H.R. 6699) was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Anne Kuster (D-NH-2) and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-1) on May 5, 2020.
This bipartisan legislation would provide up to $25,000 in student loan forgiveness for the federal and private student loans of an essential worker. It had 39 cosponsors.
However, the legislation died in a previous Congress.
Public Health Workforce Loan Repayment Act of 2020
Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO-6) introduced the Public Health Workforce Loan Repayment Act of 2020 (H.R. 6578) to the House of Representatives on April 21, 2020.
This legislation would provide up to $105,000 in student loan forgiveness for federal and private student loans of borrowers who have a public health or health professions degree or certificate and who have accepted employment with or are employed by a local, State or Tribal public health agency. U.S. citizenship is required.
The law would provide student loan forgiveness over a three-year period in exchange for the borrower’s commitment to work for a qualified public health agency. The student loan forgiveness consists of annual payments of one-third of the eligible loan balance, up to a maximum of $35,000 per year, for three years.
Borrowers may receive an additional loan repayment incentive if they agree to relocate to a priority service area.
And, they would receive additional payments to cover the tax liability resulting from the loan repayments.
However, similar to the other proposals, this legislation died in a previous Congress.