Governor urges reconsideration of college loan relief

Governor urges reconsideration of college loan relief
Written by Publishing Team

Governor Chris Sununu is urging state lawmakers to rethink their opposition to using $17 million in federal money to attract new workers by helping pay off a portion of student loan debt.

Introduced by the Governor’s Office of Emergency Relief and Recovery, the procedure is not dead, but may be on life support machines.

It was submitted 10-0 in a bipartisan vote by the legislature’s joint finance committee on December 17. It was supposed to be brought up again Friday, but the bureau withdrew the item while it worked on the proposal.

There is no set timetable for when the procedure will be resubmitted. The money is part of the federal government’s $1.9 trillion US bailout bill that has funded dozens of programs in New Hampshire to advance public health, economic recovery and other priorities.

Committee members said it would not be fair to help some students pay off college loans when this benefit was not offered in the past and others paid off the debt themselves.

Another criticism was that it should be up to companies, not the government, to offer incentives to hire employees and that this would be a wasteful use of taxpayers’ money.

But Sununu and Taylor Caswell, the bureau’s executive director, say this incentive can be an important tool for strengthening the workforce. Companies in health care and other industries across the state, including the Monadnock area, say they simply cannot find enough workers.

The plan would have used federal funds for pandemic relief to pay off up to $20,000 in student loan debt for more than 1,000 people who agreed to take a position in New Hampshire and hold that job for four years.

Anyone with education or training debt will be eligible for the program, which will begin early this year, if approved by the Joint Finance Committee.

Sunono said at a press conference on Thursday in response to a question from Watchman.

“It’s one plus one equals three in this matter because you want the students to have some financial flexibility, but most of all you want them here in New Hampshire.

So we have federal funds to implement programs like this. I just wish [the legislators] reconsidering. It just says, “While you live and work here in New Hampshire, in most industries, we can pay off student debt.” This is a win for everyone.”

Before becoming effective, these proposals must be approved by both the Finance Committee and the Executive Board. The council has already approved it.

She is supported by Chancellor Cindy Warmington, whose district covers Kane and many surrounding communities.

She said that such programs are not new. The state is already using student loan forgiveness as an incentive to hire doctors in disadvantaged areas of the state.

“We are in the midst of a global pandemic,” Warmington said. This money is not normally available to us but it is now because we are facing unusual circumstances. I will support its use to bring personnel into the state to address an acute and severe shortage of manpower that we have not seen before.”

Caswell said such programs have proven useful in hiring workers.

“We didn’t feel it was a controversial or untested approach,” he said.

“We have employers in the state crying out for more people to meet the demands of their business.

“If they choose not to go in that direction, we will continue to try to find solutions to the workforce problem.”

In terms of fairness to former or current students who may not have access to this program, Caswell said there are limits to what the government can do.

“This is a program like any other,” Caswell said. “It starts on a specific date and has certain goals. Unfortunately, I can’t necessarily claim that it is a 100% fair program, but what is a fair program?”

“if [the legislators] Choose not to go in that direction, we will continue to try to find solutions to the workforce problem.”

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