Padilla Introduces Legislation to Grant Student Loan Forgiveness to Frontline Health Workers

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) joined Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) in introducing the Student Debt Forgiveness for Frontline Health Workers Act. This bill would forgive the student and professional training loan debt of frontline health care workers, and honor their resilience and sacrifice during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the health care industry has been struck by worker shortages and has seen overworked individuals try to fill in the gaps where they could. In California, there are over 35,525 COVID cases amongst health care workers, and over 400 frontline workers have tragically lost their lives to the virus.

“Our brave frontline health care workers have fought tirelessly throughout the pandemic to ensure that our communities stay safe, often putting their own health at risk,” said Senator Padilla. “Unfortunately, far too many of these workers are burdened by crippling student loan debt—that is simply unacceptable. We must work to bolster this critical workforce and ensure we don’t continue to face the staffing shortages that this pandemic exposed. That’s why I am co-leading the Student Loan Forgiveness for Frontline Health Workers Act to forgive the student loan debt of the very people who have been essential to our response and recovery.”

“We owe so much to our health care workers – something we grew to appreciate even more during the COVID-19 crisis,” said Senator Whitehouse. “This legislation honors the contributions of these public servants by helping them wipe the slate clean of student loan debt.”

The Student Debt Forgiveness for Frontline Health Workers Act would create a program through the Department of Education to forgive the federal loan debt, and in collaboration with the Treasury Department, create a program to forgive private loans. This legislation uplifts those who made immense sacrifices during the COVID-19 pandemic to keep their communities safe and healthy.

Senator Padilla is a strong advocate for health care workers, and for easing the burden of student loan debt. He has been a vocal leader in urging President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in student loan debt for all federal student loan borrowers.

The bill:

  • Directs the Department of Education to form a program to forgive frontline health care workers’ outstanding federal loans, and the Treasury Department in consultation with the Education Department to form a program to forgive private loans;
  • Excludes the amount of forgiven loans from taxable income;
  • Establishes an open application process through an independent interagency council for individuals whose work may not fit the definition of “frontline health care worker” to claim eligibility for loan forgiveness;
  • Requires public notice of the loan forgiveness program and processes to ensure awareness of prospective applicants;
  • Sets no loan amount cap; and
  • Makes loan forgiveness eligibility applicable to both volunteers and paid employees.