State Senator Maria Collett, a Democrat representing the 12th Senatorial District of Montgomery and Bucks counties, has teamed up with Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf to promote a new student loan program for nurses in Pennsylvania.

Collet and Gov. Tom Wolf have been heavily promoting the new Student Loan Assistance for Nurses (SLRN) program for nurses working in the state.

According to Wolf spokeswoman Beth Rementer, the governor supports the legislator’s call for increased funding for this program.

“We are delighted that this program has received a strong response from our nurses, who are essential to our healthcare system on a daily basis and especially during the pandemic,” Rementer said in a statement.

Qualified nurses can receive relief of up to $2,500 for each year they work during the COVID-19 pandemic, starting in 2020, with a maximum benefit of $7,500 over three years.

Nurses can apply at www.PHEAA.org/SLRN. All applications must be submitted by March 1.

The program is part of the Nursing Workforce Initiative, which is using $6.5 million in Federal American Rescue Plan funds to keep nurses in the profession during the pandemic. Of this total, $5 million will go towards student loan relief for nurses.

Due to huge demand, the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) has received more than 8,000 applications since the program launched last spring.

“There is more demand than money, and we can get the funds to do more. I hope it becomes law,” Collet said.

In 2017, there were about 180,000 nurses in Pennsylvania, and in May 2020 that number dropped to 146,000.

“We need to find a way to show Pennsylvania nurses that we value them more than just putting up a sign in the yard,” Collett said.

In the recently released promotional video, Collett, who is a registered nurse herself, references nurses across the country who have been working around the clock to care for people during the pandemic “while risking their own health.”

“To recognize your essential work and provide continued support as you continue to keep Pennsylvania safe and healthy, I am proud to tell you about the new Student Loan Relief Program for Nurses in Pennsylvania. pushed for something like this from day one,” Collet said in the video.

The Nursing Workforce Initiative (NWI) also offers apprenticeship and industry partnerships, funded by $1 million, and residency and mentorship programs, funded by $500,000.

The NWI Learning and Industry Partnership Program will be operated by the Department of Labor and Industry to expose Pennsylvanians to new career opportunities in nursing. At least one new learning and industry partnership created must target underrepresented populations.

“Pennsylvania nurses have been instrumental in the Commonwealth’s response to COVID-19, from bedside care and education of our communities, to supporting the Commonwealth’s cutting-edge vaccine distribution efforts,” said Wolf.