Thursday, May 4, 2023
Washington, D.C. – Today, Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, along with U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Roger Wicker (R-MS), and John Boozman (R-AR), teamed up to introduce the bipartisan Nurse Corps Tax Parity Act, legislation to ensure that nurses in the federal Nurse Corps are not required to pay federal income tax on their student loan forgiveness and scholarships.
“As the husband of a nurse, I know frontline nurses are the backbone of communities, helping patients and families through both joyous and challenging times,” said Merkley. “Nurse Corps members build healthier communities in the areas of greatest need, and it is terrible public policy and frankly offensive that nurses are singled out for extra taxation as compared to other health professionals—it’s long past time to put an end to this.”
“Nurses work day in and day out to provide lifesaving care for our communities. They have an incredibly difficult job and COVID-19 only made it harder, pushing so many people, and our health care workforce, to the brink,” said Murray. “We need more nurses in order to provide the best possible care for patients—which is why I am proud to cosponsor the Nurse Corps Tax Parity Act. This bill will strengthen our health care workforce and put more money in the pockets of nurses who selflessly serve some of our most vulnerable communities.”
“Nurses are essential to our health care system, and we need more of them,” Wicker said. “The Nurse Corps Tax Parity Act would further incentivize individuals to enter the nursing workforce by eliminating a tax penalty for those participating in the Nurse Corps.”
“Like many other states, Arkansas has a shortage of nurses, which ultimately leads to reduced access to quality care. This legislation will eliminate an unnecessary financial burden while incentivizing these medical professionals to bring their skills to underserved areas to support the health needs of rural populations,” Boozman said.
The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) and the Nurse Corps are two programs administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) aimed at delivering critical health care services in underserved areas. These corps programs offer both scholarships and loan repayment for health care providers in exchange for service in these areas. However, despite the similar missions and program offerings of the NHSC and Nurse Corps, NHSC scholarships and loan forgiveness are not subject to federal income tax, but Nurse Corps scholarships and loan forgiveness are.
This legislation is also co-sponsored by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Peter Welch (D-VT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).
Without a statutory exemption for the Nurse Corps, scholarships or loan repayments that can be considered compensation for services are taxable. To ensure parity in tax status between the NHSC and Nurse Corps, the Nurse Corps Tax Parity Act amends the Internal Revenue Code to create parity in tax treatment for scholarships and loan repayment between the NHSC and the Nurse Corps.
The Nurse Corps Tax Parity Act of 2023 is endorsed by the American Nurses Association (ANA), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), the American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology (AANA), the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), the Association of Public Health Nurses (APHN), the Association of Rehabilitation Nurses (ARN), American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the Commissioned Officers Association of the USPHS (COA), Friends of the National Institute of Nursing Research (FNINR), and the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS).
“The Nurse Corps program is a critical component of our nation’s health care system. Many Americans, including millions of people living in rural and underserved communities, have benefited from the increased access to high-quality care that the Nurse Corps program enables,” said ANA President Jennifer Mensik Kennedy, PhD, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN. “Removing taxes on scholarships and loans provided by the Nurse Corps would help to bring it in line with other programs that empower health care professionals to practice in high-need areas. I want to thank Senators Merkley and Wicker for their continued efforts on this legislation.”
“People living in rural and underserved communities often must travel long distances to access basic medical care, making the providers who work in those areas especially critical. As our healthcare professionals face ongoing challenges, including unsafe patient levels, burnout, moral injury and treacherous working conditions, it’s more important than ever to invest in the workforce. Senator Merkley’s Nurse Corps Tax Parity Act makes financial aid tax free for nurses who agree to work in underserved areas, helping support future nurses who want to build capacity in communities lacking access to quality healthcare. It’s a solutions-based approach to help communities in need, and we support it fully,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten.
“The Nurse Corps scholarship and loan repayment programs are vital sources of federal support, not only for our students and practitioners, but for the healthcare system as a whole,” said Dr. Deborah Trautman, President and CEO of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. “We look forward to working with Congress to move this bipartisan effort forward.”
“AACN applauds Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Roger Wicker (R-MS), our Senate Nursing Caucus Co-Chairs, as well as Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and John Boozman (R-AR) for introducing this bipartisan bill to remove the federal tax requirement from the Nurse Corps programs,” said Dr. Cynthia McCurren, Board Chair for the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. “Creating parity with other federal programs is imperative, especially as we support current and future nurses committed to working in rural and underserved areas across the nation.”
“Nurses got us through the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, they continue to hold our health care system together, doing incredibly challenging work in the face of unprecedented staffing shortages. The Nurse Corps Tax Parity Act will recognizethem for their sacrifices by helping them benefit from scholarships, repay their loans and receive some tax relief. It is a step forward in addressing the staffing crisis, while allowing nurses to acquire new skills and improving patient care,” said AFSCME President Lee Saunders.
“The Commissioned Officers Association (COA) of the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) thanks Senators Merkley, Wicker, Murray, and Boozman, for introducing the Nurse Corps Tax Parity Act. Like the nearly 1,000 nurses who serve on active duty in the USPHS, the Nurse Corps have responded to major health crises, natural disasters, and provided services in underserved communities. The Nurse Corps Scholarship applicants, who have placed themselves second to the health of the nation, deserve the same tax benefits as other programs. It’s time to bring equity and relief to the nurses and support the Nurse Tax Parity Act” said CAPT Jacqueline Rychnovsky, USN (Ret.), PhD, CAE, Executive Director of the COA.
The full text of the bill can be found here.
Bill summary can be found here.