WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.), alongside U.S. Representatives Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.-06) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.-01), Thursday introduced the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Payment Completion Fairness Act – a bipartisan bill that would change a technicality in federal law that unnecessarily requires that PSLF applicants be employed in a public service role at the time of forgiveness, even if they have already made 120 qualifying payments.
This has negatively affected public service employees who have completed their 120 payments, decided to retire or move on from their current jobs or public service careers, and suddenly become ineligible for forgiveness even though they dutifully served their communities for at least ten years.
“Since its creation, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program has had persistent issues that have made it difficult for public service employees to access student debt relief in exchange for their dedicated service to our nation,” Menendez said. “This is a common-sense, bipartisan solution that will remove a needless provision in federal law that will transform the lives of law enforcement, firefighters, teachers, and other public service employees by making it easier for them to receive relief under the PSLF program.”
According to a 2017 survey from the National Policing Institute, 958 police agencies found that 30.2% of police officers had four-year college degrees, 51.8% had two-year degrees, and 5.4% had graduate degrees. Making it more affordable for these officers to secure the education needed to advance in their careers means greater income opportunities for them, with top investigators and detectives making approximately $159,000 per year. Moreover, a 2021 report from the National Education Association found that 25% of educators over the age of 61 have been unable to pay off their student loans, with 35% carrying more than $45,000 in debt.
Helping staff afford more opportunities for career advancement will also serve as a powerful recruitment tool. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly all states suffered declines in public sector jobs, including in police forces and schools. Communities cannot effectively serve the needs of their residents with major employment gaps in schools, law enforcement agencies, and other public agencies.
The PSLF Payment Completion Fairness Act has been endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), National Education Association (NEA), American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), International Association of Firefighters (IAFF), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), Communication Workers of America (CWA), Service Employees International Union (SEIU), United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), and International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT).
“Law enforcement officers, firefighters, and other public safety officers serve their communities selflessly. These brave men and women may begin their policing careers with student debt or accrue some by going to school while serving,” said Patrick Yoes, National President of the Fraternal Order of Police. “Many will cite the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSFL) program as one of the benefits that led them to a public safety career. The legislation introduced by Senators Menendez and Braun and Representatives Houlahan and Fitzpatrick would eliminate a technicality in this program to ensure that is more widely available to those that served. We look forward to working with them on this issue.”
“Educators of the National Education Association (NEA) are ecstatic to support the reintroduction of the bipartisan Public Service Loan Forgiveness Payment Completion Fairness Act, which takes a major step in fulfilling the original intent and promise of the PSLF program,” said Marc Egan, Director of Government Relations, National Education Association. “Educators and other public servants who have met eligibility for PSLF should not be denied what they were promised just because they have retired or moved on. Since the completion of the Limited PSLF Waiver, more than 453,000 borrowers, and counting, have already received PSLF due to temporary improvements. This demonstrates how critical this legislation is to our public servants; a permanent fix to a serious problem. NEA members and its retired educators applaud Sens. Menendez and Braun and Reps. Houlahan and Fitzpatrick for their key leadership on this legislation.”
“People in public service don’t do this work to get rich; they do it because they’re driven to make their communities better, safer and healthier,” said Lee Saunders, President of AFSCME. “It’s not just a job, it’s a calling. But serving your community often requires a college degree, and excessive higher education costs are keeping qualified individuals from pursuing this career path. Meanwhile, the burden of student debt combined with the rising cost of living is forcing those in public service to consider other job options. That’s why Congress needs to pass the bipartisan PSLF Payment Completion Fairness Act. It would deliver public service workers the relief they need to continue the essential work our communities depend on.”