Swalwell Introduces Fairness in Forgiveness Act to Help National Lab Employees

June 21, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Rep. Eric Swalwell (CA-15) on Wednesday introduced the Fairness in Forgiveness Act, which would let current and former long-time workers at all 16 privately operated Department of Energy (DOE) National Laboratories seek forgiveness of their federal student loans. This legislation is introduced as part of a week of action to address student loan debt that Swalwell announced on Tuesday.

The Fairness in Forgiveness Act would make all of the labs’ staff members eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLFP), which provides forgiveness of federal student loans for those who work at least 10 years in public service. Eligibility would be retroactive to October 1, 2007, the beginning of the PSLFP.

Under current Department of Education rules, no for-profit organizations can qualify as public-service employers; only government entities and non-profits that are tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the tax code are automatically eligible.

Five of the 16 DOE national labs – Lawrence Livermore and Sandia in Swalwell’s district, as well as Idaho, Los Alamos, and Savannah River – are operated by for-profit companies, rendering their workers ineligible for the PSLFP. Workers at three other labs – Brookhaven, Oak Ridge, and the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility – are not guaranteed to qualify because their employers are non-profit organizations not guaranteed under Section 501(c)(3). 

“Student loan debt in our nation exceeds $1.3 trillion, which weighs down opportunity for new graduates, families, and our economy,” said Swalwell. “The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program is intended to lighten that weight for those who pursue careers that support our communities and country – we should seize that opportunity. Expanding PSLFP eligibility to staff at these particular DOE national labs helps them better manage their loans and will allow us to recruit and retain scientists, engineers, computer experts, and others in similar professions willing to devote their careers to the public good.”

The Fairness in Forgiveness Act has six original cosponsors – Reps. Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03), Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-01), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Ed Perlmutter (CO-07), and Tony Cardenas (CA-29).

Swalwell is the founder and chair of Future Forum, a group of 26 young House Democrats that has engaged with thousands of millennials across the nation on the issues most important to them. Student loan debt consistently ranks high among the concerns of millennials, who now are the largest and most diverse generation in U.S. history.