The proposal for student debt relief was tabled by the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee on Friday. (Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images)
Lawmakers put a pause on a proposed $17 million student debt relief program Friday until the Governor’s Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery can tell them more, including who would be eligible, what industries would be targeted, and how they’ll sustain a program started with one-time federal money.
Taylor Caswell, executive director of GOFERR, told the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee Friday that $15 million of the money would be divided among 1,000 to 1,500 people who take jobs in New Hampshire and keep them for at least three years. Of that, $10 million would go to people who earn up 80 percent of the area median income; the rest would be awarded to people graduating this spring.
The remaining $2 million would cover the costs of administering the program over those three years, Caswell said.
Committee member Sen. Cindy Rosenwald, a Nashua Democrat, asked Caswell if the health care industry would be prioritized given that the pandemic has exacerbated a pre-existing shortage of health care workers.
Caswell said as of now, no. “We are aware of the fact that there really is no industry or sector in New Hampshire that is not experiencing a labor shortage right now,” he said.
Sen. Bob Giuda, a Warren Republican, questioned Caswell about using public money to recruit workers for private employers.
“Why can’t businesses themselves provide incentives to employers?,” he said. “It seems to me as though with this program, the government is stepping in to pay the cost that businesses traditionally pay for recruiting their own workers. And for that reason I’m prone to object to it.”
Caswell said many employers are recruiting their own workers. This program would be for those who cannot, he said.
The committee voted, 9-1, to table the request until its next meeting and requested Caswell come back with more details. Giuda was the lone no vote.
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