Lawmaker proposes forgiving student loans of doctors, nurses fighting coronavirus crisis

NEW YORK -- A U.S. lawmaker proposed forgiving all student loan debt for health care workers on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-New York, introduced the bill Tuesday in response to doctors and nurses who pushed back at New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's suggestion that the federal government gives 50% hazard pay bonuses to those workers.

Many of them said they were appreciative of the hazard pay sentiment, but pointed out that the 50% boost would do very little to help them out of debt.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, young doctors leave medical school with an average of $200,000 in debt.

"I'm looking at a student loan debt of $318,000," Dr. Manuel Penton III, age 32, previously told ABC News. "That few extra thousand dollars, while it may make a big difference to some people, for me, most of that money is going to go back into paying off my student loan debt."

Health care groups, such as the American Medical Association, have recently written letters to Congress asking for some sort of student loan forgiveness for doctors.

Maloney introduced the Student Loan Forgiveness for Frontline Health Workers Act Tuesday. If passed, the bill would forgive all federal and private student loans for medical professionals and medical researchers who are directly working on fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

"We own more than thanks and cheers at 7 p.m.," Maloney said during a Tuesday press briefing. "We have an obligation to ensure men and women are relieved of the debt they incurred to train for this critical work."

In March, Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Massachusetts, proposed a bill that would forgive up to $30,000 worth of public student loans for any profession.

Maloney said her targeted approach to forgiving loans for medical professionals is more likely to pass.

In response to the coronavirus crisis, payments on most federal student loans are suspended, interest-free, through Sept. 30.

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