Story Produced by New Hampshire Bulletin
A proposed $17 million student debt relief program tabled by the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee last month for lack of details would require recipients to work in New Hampshire for four years. And the state would set a goal of reserving $3 million of that for health care employees.
Taylor Caswell, director of the Governor’s Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery, provided those details to the fiscal committee ahead of its meeting Friday. Based on the additional information, it appears Caswell has revised his plan.
Asked last meeting by Sen. Cindy Rosenwald, a Nashua Democrat, whether he would direct any of the $17 million to the health care industry, which is suffering a significant workforce shortage, Caswell said 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,” Caswell told her. His updated plan said the office is “setting a goal” of using $3 million to recruit health care workers.
It is unclear from the information he provided the committee whether that is only a goal or a commitment. A message to the Governor’s Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery was not returned.
Caswell said last month that recipients would have to stay employed in New Hampshire for at least three years. That is now four years, according to the updated plan.
The debt relief program, paid for with federal pandemic aid, aims to provide 1,000 to 1,500 students $15,000 to $20,000 each.
The first $10 million would be awarded to people earning 80 percent or less of area median income. The next $5 million would go to spring 2022 graduates; Caswell did not say whether there is also an income limit for those awards.
Caswell said the New Hampshire Business Finance Authority would use the remaining $2 million to administer the program over four years.