This Bill Could Forgive Student Loan Debt To Doctors And Nurses On The Front Line Against Coronavirus

While doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers risk their lives to save the thousands of people with severe symptoms of COVID-19, they are often forced to do so with poor personal protective equipment (PPE) or makeshift, grueling shifts and a rapid depletion of needed drug supplies. Many have altered their living conditions to minimize the risk of loved ones falling ill, and others have opposed orchestrated anti-social distancing protesters who advocate practices that could potentially cause thousands more to fall ill with a virus. for which there is currently no known vaccine. In short, they put up with a lot of things – and a lot of things that they say they never signed up for when choosing their career path.

Now, many of them are pressuring the federal government to take more meaningful action than just calling them “heroes”: they want their student loan debts canceled.

A MoveOn petition launched three weeks ago has amassed more than 500,000 signatures; to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), as well as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Leader House Minority Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) Petition Calls on Lawmakers to “Include Loan Cancellations for All Healthcare Professionals” in Next Stimulus Package Because These Workers “Are Doing a Service heroic and selfless in our country. After World War II, Congress thanked our soldiers for passing the GI Bill so that they could get a college education. It would be the same. “Another Change.org petition, addressed to President Donald Trump and congressional leaders, has garnered more than 250,000 signatures.

According to data from the Association of American Medical Professionals released in October 2019, a total of 73% of medical students graduate with student loan debt, and their average debt is $ 201,490. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing reported in 2017 that, on average, nurses finish their programs with debts ranging from $ 40,000 to $ 54,999, and that it can take decades to pay off: a 2019 Medscape survey found that 20% of nurses aged 55 or older were still repaying their student loans.

“We want to go out and take care of people. No one becomes a doctor for the money,” Dr. Andrew Tisser, an emergency room doctor in New York City who signed the Change.org petition, told NBC News.

Like many inequalities exposed by the coronavirus pandemic, the heavy debt weighing on healthcare workers has only exacerbated already strained systems. In 2017, NPR reported a shortage of doctors in rural areas, as many cannot afford to open their own practices and continue to pay off student loan debt. Some states have already proven that relief is possible: In 2019, California introduced a new program that would relieve doctors of student loan debt of up to $ 300,000 if they agreed to purchase Medi insurance. -Cal for low income patients. And while some healthcare providers use the civil service loan forgiveness program to work on loan forgiveness, few people were approved for such forgiveness between 2018 and 2019, largely due to a technicality of paperwork.

On April 12, Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) said she plans to introduce the Student Debt Forgiveness Act for frontline healthcare workers, which “would eliminate graduate debt for healthcare workers who provide direct patient care in response to COVID. -19 pandemic. “

“The least we can do to recognize their service is to write off their student loan debt so they don’t have to worry about their financial well-being in addition to their health and the health of their families.” while they are responding to a public health emergency, “she said in a statement.

And while Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) has also called on frontline workers to receive a risk premium during the pandemic, some doctors don’t think an overtime strategy is enough.

“I’m looking at a student loan debt of $ 318,000,” Dr. Manuel “Trey” Penton III, a pediatric infectious disease physician in New York City, told ABC News. “That extra few thousand dollars, while it can make a big difference to some people, for me most of that money is going to be used to pay off my student loan debt.

Elizabeth May, another doctor from New York, agreed: “Four years after starting her residency, and about $ 20,000 in loan repayment later, I’m still getting the interest” on the debt she owed. accumulated in medical school, she wrote for The Intercept. “I owe more than when I graduated.”

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