Pa. officials unanimously approve bill to forgive student loans of volunteer firefighters, first responders

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Pennsylvania officials have unanimously passed a new measure that seeks to ease the burden of student loan debt for municipal volunteers of fire companies, rescue companies, and non-profit emergency medical services.

An amended version of the bill will head to Pennsylvania's House of Representatives after it was passed Wednesday. 

House Bill 1786, would establish the First Responder Loan Forgiveness Program, to incentivize people to consider alternative careers in order to address a decline in volunteers in those fields.  

"I believe offering college loan forgiveness to first responders is an innovative and effective way to do so," State Representative Chris Sainato wrote in a memorandum in August. 

If passed by Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives, up to $16,000 in loans would be forgiven for college graduates who served four years with either a volunteer fire company, volunteer rescue company or an emergency medical services agency.

“What we’re trying to do is reward those for community service,” Rep. Chris Sainato stated. “We want these men and women to stay in Pennsylvania.”

Other requirements would be consider for eligbility including number of emergency calls an individual responded to, an individual’s level of formal training, legitimate certification by approved institutes, and more.