Doctors, nurses and other professionals in the medical industry are risking their own lives every day as they care for patients stricken with the coronavirus. Grateful citizens everywhere have been showing their appreciation in both big and small ways for these essential workers’ heroic work during this difficult time.
Residents of New York City, Atlanta and many other cities have taken to their balconies and windows to cheer for first responders, nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers for their tireless fight against the pandemic, and there have been similar outpourings of support around the world.
Now, some people are calling for the forgiveness of student loan debt for these brave professionals as a practical way to reward them for their incredible sacrifices.
Kate Schertz is a medical resident working on the frontlines of the coronavirus crisis in New York City, and she recently penned an op-ed for the Huffington Post in which she said that elimination of student loan debt for medical workers is the best way to properly compensate them.
“When this war is over, I do not want accolades or recognition,” she wrote. “I want my $300,000 in federal medical school loans forgiven.”
Schertz noted that in addition to working long hours, she and her colleagues are sometimes asked to keep working and forgo testing even though they are experiencing symptoms suggestive of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. In some cases, medical professionals are even moving to temporary housing in an attempt to protect their families.
Despite these extreme circumstances, they have not seen an increase in their salaries.
“The best way we can say thanks to our health care heroes is to erase the enormous financial burden of their educational debt, a cost that was required to fight and win this war,” Schertz wrote.
She pointed to precedent set in similar past situations. For example, in the wake of 9/11, the federal government granted a $7 billion compensation package to first responders.
“President Trump, you’ve long been an advocate for honoring our veterans and national heroes,” Schertz wrote. “COVID-19 veterans may have worn scrubs and white coats instead of camouflage and uniforms, but make no mistake, they will be veterans of war, a world war.”
Currently, there is also a petition on Change.org to forgive student loan debt for our nation’s nurses amid the pandemic, titled, Student Loan Forgiveness for Nurses Caring for Our Country during Coronavirus 19 Pandemic. So far, the petition has more than 55,000 signatures out of a goal of 75,000.
In addition to a push for student loan forgiveness, there has been a call to provide hazard pay for essential workers. Senate Democrats have proposed The COVID-19 “Heroes Fund,” which would provide a $25,000 pandemic premium pay increase for essential frontline workers, including doctors, nurses, grocery store workers and transit workers. The increase would last through the end of 2020.