Loan repayment program for nurses could become law with Governor’s signature

Published: Mar. 6, 2023 at 8:19 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Mississippi has a nursing shortage, and you may have noticed it when you or your loved one was seeking care. Now, lawmakers are offering up another possible solution.

We reported on the various factors contributing to the shortage last fall.

”We will take everything that we can get,” said Dr. Kim Hoover, Mississippi Hospital Association’s Chief Operating Officer. “The problem is that this doesn’t really address what we have going on right now.”

Chief Operating Officer at the Mississippi Hospital Association Dr. Kim Hoover points out that paying off loans doesn’t keep current nurses in place but would rather only apply to students still in the pipeline who enter the workforce in the next few years.

“I think where it hits home is that if we don’t have nurses and other staff in the hospitals, it affects not only the patient care, it affects whether or not you can actually get in the hospital, how long you stay in an emergency department, if you need to be transferred, where you get transferred, how far away you go. "

The legislature tried to address the nursing shortage via a loan forgiveness program last year. But the Office of Student Financial Aid couldn’t do anything with it.

“Because the program was funded through the federal ARPA funds, there was not enough time for students to complete that full five-plus year process before the federal close out year of 2026,” noted Jennifer Rogers, Director of the Mississippi Office of Student Financial Aid. “So it really just became a timing issue, that we could not administer the program as it was set up using federal funds.”

But the new proposal of offering $6,000 per student for up to three years in exchange for working in a Mississippi hospital or nursing home is one that would fit the timeline of using ARPA money.

“We fully intend to be getting dollars out the door,” said Rogers.

Meanwhile, Hoover says they’re watching other legislation that could offer more immediate relief.

“Think for us the legislation that is out there that will infuse some funding into hospitals right now is at least a small amount that can be done,” added Hoover.

The Governor has until March 9 to take action on the loan repayment bill.

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