September 02, 2020

Senator Gillibrand Calls For Strengthened Public Service Loan Forgiveness In Next COVID-19 Relief Package During Visit To NY Public Employees Federation

Gaps In The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program Continue to Hold Up Student Loan Forgiveness For Essential Public Workers; Strengthened PSLF Program Would Ensure Public Servants And Frontline Workers Receive The Student Loan Forgiveness They Have Earned

Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand visited New York State Public Employees Federation (PEF) in Albany to call for reform of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program to support frontline public service workers as the economy recovers from the coronavirus pandemic. Since its inception, less than 1% of all public servants who have applied for the PSLF program have received loan forgiveness due to flawed implementation. Gillibrand’s What Can You Do For Your Country Act would close gaps in the current PSLF program, clarify qualifications, and provide guidance to better serve eligible borrowers and help them receive the federal loan forgiveness they’ve earned. 

“Many public service employees  including nurses and first responders  have been working on the frontlines as we combat this pandemic. Unfortunately there is no guarantee that student loans won’t hang over their heads for the rest of their lives, despite the promise made in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. This is not right. Congress has a duty to fix this deeply flawed program and stand up for our current and future essential employees, who are disproportionately people of color, who are working to keep our communities safe during this crisis,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I will keep fighting to make sure they get the relief and support they need. This program needs to work for the people who have given so much back to their communities.”

“There are about 44 million people in the United States saddled with student loan debt. PEF members provide vital public services to New York residents every day and this pandemic has shown just how much New York relies on its public servants. Our members have been putting their lives on the line to serve the public during this crisis and student loan debt is an added worry for workers and their families. Expansion of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program would help alleviate financial stress for workers who have given so much of themselves. We strongly support this effort and we’re grateful for Senator Gillibrand’s commitment to help public employees gain access to student loan forgiveness and fix the program so it does what it was intended to for workers who enter public service,” said Wayne Spence, President, NYS Public Employees Federation.

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program was established in 2007 to help more students choose careers in public service. The program provides loan forgiveness to eligible Direct Loan borrowers after 10 years of working full-time for federal, state, local, or tribal governments, and certain nonprofit organizations. However, due to mismanagement at the U.S. Department of Education, less than 1% of eligible public servants who have applied for loan forgiveness have received it.  

Earlier this summer, Gillibrand led her Senate colleagues in a letter to leadership to immediately fix the PSLF program to ensure teachers, nurses, first responders, and other essential public service professionals who have worked throughout the pandemic can access debt relief. Specifically, the senators called for key provisions from Gillibrand’s What You Can Do for Your Country Act including: 

  • Closing donut holes and fixing technical errors in the current PSLF program to ensure all types of federal loans and federal repayment plans qualify;
  • Requiring clearer information and better guidance to borrowers; and
  • Simplifying the application process so that all eligible borrowers are able to work towards and receive the loan forgiveness they have earned.