Swalwell Introduces Fairness in Forgiveness Act to Help National Lab Employees
May 11, 2016
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. 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.
The bill would make all of the labs’ staff members eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLFP), which provides for 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’s 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).
“Denying staff at these particular DOE national labs eligibility for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program is not in keeping with the intent of the program, which is to encourage public service,” said Swalwell, who serves on the Science, Space and Technology Committee that oversees certain national labs activities.
“With students who have loans owing an average of about $33,000, and total student loan debt exceeding $1.3 trillion, we should be seizing opportunities to reduce this crushing burden,” Swalwell added. “Expanding the PSLFP will help these students and 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 13 original cosponsors.