PRINTER'S NO. 69
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF PENNSYLVANIA
SENATE BILL
No.
94
Session of
2021
INTRODUCED BY SCAVELLO, BROWNE, MUTH, CAPPELLETTI, LANGERHOLC,
COSTA, KANE AND YUDICHAK, JANUARY 22, 2021
REFERRED TO EDUCATION, JANUARY 22, 2021
AN ACT
Providing for Commonwealth support for a Mental Health and
Intellectual Disability Staff Member Loan Forgiveness Program
and an Alcohol and Drug Addiction Counselor Loan Forgiveness
Program.
The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
hereby enacts as follows:
Section 1. Short title.
This act shall be known and may be cited as the Mental Health
and Intellectual Disability Staff Member Program and Alcohol and
Drug Addiction Counselor Loan Forgiveness Program Act.
Section 2. Findings and declaration of purpose.
The General Assembly finds and declares that:
(1) Community-based mental health, intellectual
disability and alcohol and drug addiction treatment services
offer lifelong supports and opportunities for a meaningful
quality of life, in fulfillment of Federal and State laws.
(2) Treatment of alcohol and other drug addiction is a
crucial investment in health care, in the stability of
families and in protecting the public safety.
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(3) A qualified and stable work force is the key to
quality community mental health and intellectual disability
services and to quality alcohol and drug addiction counseling
services.
(4) The pool of qualified staff members has diminished.
(5) The number of college students planning to enter the
mental health and intellectual disability profession or the
alcohol and drug addiction counseling profession appears to
be inadequate to meet the need for staff members in this
Commonwealth.
(6) Demand from industry and other opportunities attract
potential staff members away from these professions.
(7) Payment of a portion of student loans for mental
health and intellectual disability staff members or alcohol
and drug addiction counselors serves the important public
purpose of encouraging new staff members to pursue careers in
this Commonwealth.
Section 3. Definitions.
The following words and phrases when used in this act shall
have the meanings given to them in this section unless the
context clearly indicates otherwise:
"Agency." The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance
Agency.
"Counselor." A counselor assistant, counselor or clinical
supervisor.
"Licensed alcohol and drug addiction treatment facility." An
alcohol or drug addiction treatment facility licensed by the
Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs to provide addiction
treatment services.
"Qualified alcohol and drug addiction loan forgiveness
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applicant." A person who meets the following criteria:
(1) Is a resident of this Commonwealth.
(2) Has successfully completed a two-year or four-year
academic degree or diploma or graduate level academic degree
or diploma at an accredited college or university.
(3) Has been hired as a full-time counselor by a
licensed alcohol and drug addiction treatment facility.
(4) Has successfully completed the first six months of
full-time employment as a counselor at a licensed alcohol and
drug addiction treatment facility and remains in good
standing with the facility.
(5) Has borrowed through and has a current outstanding
balance with Guaranteed Stafford or Consolidation Loan
Programs administered by the Pennsylvania Higher Education
Assistance Agency.
"Qualified applicant." A qualified mental health and
intellectual disability loan forgiveness applicant or a
qualified alcohol and drug addiction loan forgiveness applicant.
"Qualified mental health and intellectual disability loan
forgiveness applicant." A person who meets all of the following
criteria:
(1) Is a resident of this Commonwealth.
(2) Has successfully completed a two-year or four-year
academic degree or diploma or graduate-level academic degree
or diploma at an accredited college or university.
(3) Has been hired as a full-time staff member by a
county mental health or intellectual disability service
agency within this Commonwealth through a merit or civil
service system approved by the Secretary of Human Services or
by a private provider that is under contract with either a
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county to provide mental health or intellectual disability
services or the Department of Human Services to provide
behavioral health rehabilitation services to individuals with
developmental disabilities.
(4) Has successfully completed the first six months of
full-time employment as a staff member at a county mental
health or intellectual disability service agency or a private
provider under contract with either a county or the
Department of Human Services and remains in good standing
with the service agency or private provider.
(5) Performs staff duties at a county mental health or
intellectual disability service agency within this
Commonwealth or at a private provider within this
Commonwealth that is under contract with either a county to
provide mental health or intellectual disability services or
the Department of Human Services to provide behavioral health
rehabilitation services to individuals with developmental
disabilities.
(6) Has borrowed through and has a current outstanding
balance with the agency-administered Guaranteed Stafford or
Consolidation Loan Programs administered by the Pennsylvania
Higher Education Assistance Agency.
(7) Agrees to work in the field for not less than four
years.
"Staff member." A caseworker, direct support professional,
therapist, program coordinator or director.
Section 4. Mental Health and Intellectual Disability Staff
Member Loan Forgiveness Program.
(a) Components.--Components shall be as follows:
(1) A qualified applicant who is selected for the Mental
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Health and Intellectual Disability Staff Member Loan
Forgiveness Program in accordance with this act shall be
eligible for payment by the agency of a portion of the debt
incurred by the applicant through the agency-administered
Guaranteed Stafford or Consolidation Loan Programs for the
education necessary to be a mental health or intellectual
disability staff member in this Commonwealth if the qualified
applicant enters into a contract with the agency that
requires the qualified recipient to remain employed as a
full-time mental health or intellectual disability staff
member in this Commonwealth for a period of two consecutive
years.
(2) The agency may forgive a proportional part of the
applicant's loan so that the loan may be entirely forgiven
over four years of full-time staff work. No more than $5,000
shall be forgiven in any year, and not more than $20,000
shall be forgiven for any applicant.
(3) Payments shall be made in accordance with the
procedures established by the agency.
(4) The contract entered into with the agency under
paragraph (1) shall be considered a contract with the
Commonwealth and shall include the following terms:
(i) The recipient shall agree to be employed by a
county mental health or intellectual disability service
agency located within this Commonwealth or by a private
provider of mental health or intellectual disability
services for a period of not less than four years in the
field.
(ii) The recipient shall permit the agency to
determine compliance with the work requirement and the
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other terms of the contract.
(iii) Upon the recipient's death or total or
permanent disability, the agency shall nullify the
service obligation of the recipient.
(iv) If the recipient is convicted of or pleads
guilty or no contest to a felony, the agency shall have
the authority to terminate the recipient's service in the
program and demand repayment of the amount of the loan as
of the date of the conviction.
(v) Loan recipients who fail to begin or complete
the obligations contracted for shall pay to the agency
the amount of the loan received under the terms of the
contract under this section. Providing false information
or misrepresentation on an application or verification of
service shall be deemed a default. Determination as to
the time of the default shall be made by the agency.
(b) Limitations.--A loan forgiveness award shall not be made
for a loan that is in default at the time of the application.
Loan forgiveness provided under the provisions of this act shall
not be awarded to a recipient of another Commonwealth-provided
loan forgiveness program concurrently.
Section 5. Alcohol and Drug Addiction Counselor Loan
Forgiveness Program.
(a) Components.--Components shall be as follows:
(1) A qualified applicant who is selected for the
Alcohol and Drug Addiction Counselor Loan Forgiveness Program
in accordance with this act shall be eligible for payment by
the agency of a portion of the debt incurred by the applicant
through the agency-administered Guaranteed Stafford or
Consolidation Loan Programs for the education necessary to be
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an alcohol and drug addiction counselor in this Commonwealth
if the qualified applicant enters into a contract with the
agency that requires the qualified recipient to remain
employed as a full-time alcohol and drug addiction counselor
in this Commonwealth for a period of two consecutive years.
(2) The agency may forgive a proportional part of the
applicant's loan so that the loan may be entirely forgiven
over four years of full-time staff work. No more than $5,000
shall be forgiven in any year, and not more than $20,000
shall be forgiven for any applicant.
(3) Payments shall be made in accordance with the
procedures established by the agency.
(4) The contract entered into with the agency under
paragraph (1) shall be considered a contract with the
Commonwealth and shall include the following terms:
(i) The recipient shall agree to be employed by a
licensed alcohol and drug addiction treatment facility
located within this Commonwealth for a period of not less
than four years in the field.
(ii) The recipient shall permit the agency to
determine compliance with the work requirement and all
other terms of the contract.
(iii) Upon the recipient's death or total or
permanent disability, the agency shall nullify the
service obligation of the recipient.
(iv) If the recipient is convicted of or pleads
guilty or no contest to a felony, the agency shall have
the authority to terminate the recipient's service in the
program and demand repayment of the amount of the loan as
of the date of the conviction.
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(v) Loan recipients who fail to begin or complete
the obligations contracted for shall pay to the agency
the amount of the loan received under the terms of the
contract under this section. Providing false information
or misrepresentation on an application or verification of
service shall be deemed a default. Determination as to
the time of the default shall be made by the agency.
(b) Limitation.--A loan forgiveness award under this act
shall not be made for a loan that is in default at the time of
the application. Loan forgiveness provided under the provisions
of this act shall not be concurrently awarded to a recipient of
another Commonwealth-provided loan forgiveness program.
Section 6. Tax applicability.
Loan forgiveness repayments by a student shall not be
considered taxable income for purposes of Article II of the act
of March 4, 1971 (P.L.6, No.2), known as the Tax Reform Code of
1971.
Section 7. Annual report.
(a) Development of report.--The agency shall publish a
report by October 1, 2021, and every year thereafter for the
immediately preceding fiscal year. The report shall include
information regarding the operation of the program, including:
(1) The number and amount of mental health and
intellectual disability staff member and alcohol and drug
addiction counselor contracts executed and renewed for mental
health and intellectual disability staff member loan
forgiveness applicants and alcohol and drug addiction
counselor loan forgiveness applicants.
(2) The number of defaulted mental health and
intellectual disability staff member and alcohol and drug
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addiction counselor contracts, reported by cause.
(3) The number of full-time staff employees of mental
health and intellectual disability service agencies, the
number of full-time staff employees of private providers and
the number of full-time staff employees of licensed alcohol
and drug addiction facilities participating in the program,
reported by type of institution attended, including four-year
educational institutions, community colleges and independent
two-year colleges.
(4) The number and type of enforcement actions taken by
the agency.
(b) Submission.--The annual report shall be submitted to the
Governor, the chair and minority chair of the Appropriations
Committee of the Senate, the chair and minority chair of the
Education Committee of the Senate, the chair and minority chair
of the Public Health and Welfare Committee of the Senate, the
chair and minority chair of the Appropriations Committee of the
House of Representatives, the chair and minority chair of the
Education Committee of the House of Representatives and the
chair and minority chair of the Human Services Committee of the
House of Representatives.
Section 8. Appeals.
The provisions of this act shall be subject to 22 Pa. Code
Ch. 121 (relating to student financial aid).
Section 9. Loan forgiveness awards.
Recipients of loan forgiveness awards under this act shall be
those mental health and intellectual disability staff members or
alcohol and drug addiction counselors who are working in and who
have received a satisfactory rating from either a county office
of mental health or intellectual disability service within this
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Commonwealth, a private provider within this Commonwealth under
contract with a county or the Department of Human Services or a
licensed alcohol and drug addiction treatment facility. Mental
health or intellectual disability staff members or alcohol and
drug addiction counselors shall submit such documentation of
eligibility as the agency may require, including documentation
to indicate full-time employment, as full-time employment is
defined by a county office, a private provider or a licensed
alcohol or drug addiction treatment facility. The documentation
shall be presented to the agency in the form of a letter from
the applicant's employer stating that the applicant is employed
by the mental health or intellectual disability service provider
or a licensed alcohol and drug addiction treatment facility and
that the applicant performs the applicant's duties in a
satisfactory manner.
Section 10. Funding.
Loan forgiveness awards under this act may be made to the
extent that funds are appropriated by the General Assembly and
are sufficient to cover the administration of the program. In
the event that funding is insufficient to fully fund
administration and all eligible applicants, priority shall be
given to renewal applicants. Thereafter, the agency shall
utilize a random lottery system for determining which applicants
receive loan forgiveness awards.
Section 11. Responsibility of agency.
The agency shall administer programs established by this act
and shall adopt regulations, policies, procedures and forms as
are necessary and consistent with the provisions of this act.
Section 12. Effective date.
This act shall take effect in 60 days.
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