Sending Office: Honorable Eric Swalwell
Cosponsor H.R. 3097, the Fairness in Forgiveness Act of 2019
Current Cosponsors: Diana DeGette, Barbara Lee, Ben Ray Lujan, Scott Peters, Jimmy Panetta and Darren Soto.
I am writing to urge you to cosponsor the Fairness in Forgiveness Act
to make staff who work at all of our 16 privately operated Department of Energy National Laboratories (“DOE national labs”) eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLFP).
For decades our DOE national labs have been tackling tough public policy challenges, from nuclear security to energy independence. We should be encouraging our best and brightest to work at any of them and consider a career in the public interest. Unfortunately,
we are failing to do that as well as we could with respect to the PSFLP.
The PSLFP is a program which provides for forgiveness of federal student loans if a person works for 10 years in public service. Rules promulgated by the Department of Education (“Ed.”) exclude any for-profit organizations from qualifying 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. Non-profit organizations that are not tax exempt may qualify, depending on the services they provide.
Five of the 16 DOE national labs (i.e., Idaho, Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, Sandia, Savanah River) are operated by for-profit companies and thus their staffs are
not eligible for the PSLFP. Staff at three other labs (i.e., Brookhaven, Oak Ridge, Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility) are
not guaranteed to qualify since their employers are non-profit organizations but not qualified under Section 501(c)(3). By contrast, staff with the other eight DOE national labs are eligible for the PSLFP because those labs are operated by
Denying staff at these particular DOE national labs eligibility for the PSLFP is not in keeping with the intent of the program, which is to encourage public service. It also puts them at an unfair disadvantage with respect to other eligible entities. And,
with students who have loans owing an average of about $33,000, and total student loan debt exceeding $1.4 trillion, we should be seizing opportunities to reduce this crushing burden. 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.
Along with many of our colleagues I wrote to Ed., asking it to correct this inequity. It replied that it will keep this issue in mind but does not plan to take it up right now. Therefore, we need to fix this problem legislatively. H.R. 3097, the
Fairness in Forgiveness Act would accomplish that by adding in statute those who work at any of our DOE national labs, regardless of the profit status of their contract operators, as eligible employees for the PSLFP. This change would be retroactive
to October 1, 2007, the start of the PSLFP.
If you would like to rectify this inequality and properly encourage people to enter public service at
all of our DOE national labs, please cosponsor H.R. 3097, the
Fairness in Forgiveness Act. You may contact Art Motta on my staff at Art.Motta@mail.house.gov if you would like to add your name or have any questions.
Member of Congress
e-Dear Colleague version 2.0