State to Provide Big Savings to Many Workers by Not Taxing Student Loan Forgiveness

Applies to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program and the Pennsylvania Student Loan Relief for Nurses (SLRN)

Harrisburg, Pa. – December 17, 2021 –  Governor Tom Wolf announced today that Pennsylvanians will not have to pay state income tax on the student loan debt relief they get from the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program and the Pennsylvania Student Loan Relief for Nurses (SLRN) Program. The decision by the Wolf Administration will save people eligible for those programs potentially thousands of dollars in state tax.

“The point of student loan forgiveness programs for public servants is that these are people who have chosen jobs, often in lower paying fields, because they want to make a difference,” said Gov. Wolf. “It’s wrong to take what should be a blessing and turn it into just another burden.

“As a commonwealth and as a nation, we can’t afford for astronomical student loan debt to keep talented people from choosing to serve as teachers, firefighters, or nurses. We need to make sure that financial burdens don’t keep our best and brightest from taking on some of our most important jobs. Ensuring that student loan forgiveness through the PSLF and SLRN programs is not considered taxable income will remove one more barrier for Pennsylvanians who are working to make a difference in our communities.”

Student loan forgiveness is not considered taxable income at the federal level, and the decision announced by the governor brings Pennsylvania in line with the majority of other states. It also removes an immense burden from student borrowers who receive loan forgiveness in Pennsylvania by ensuring that they aren’t surprised by a large tax bill the year they receive their loan forgiveness.

The SLRN Program was established to help nurses in Pennsylvania who have worked tirelessly to fight the COVID-19 pandemic continue in the nursing profession by relieving some of the burden of student loans.

The PSLF Program is a federal program that permits Direct Loan borrowers who make 120 qualifying monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan while working full-time for a qualifying employer to have the remainder of their student loan balance forgiven. Qualifying employers include federal, state, local and tribal governments, as well as 501(c)(3) non-profits.

As an example, a Pennsylvanian with $50,000 in student loans forgiven through PSLF will avoid the unpleasant surprise of a $1,535 state income tax bill.

“I want to thank Senator Bob Casey and state Senators ​Katie Muth, ​Steve Santarsiero and ​Lindsey Williams for bringing this issue to my attention,” said Gov. Wolf. “Their advocacy helped my administration bring about a crucial change to better support hard-working Pennsylvanians trying to build a life while making life better for their neighbors.”

Gov. Wolf took action by encouraging the Department of Revenue to revisit prior guidance on loan forgiveness to make sure that Pennsylvania residents benefitting from student loan forgiveness programs such as PSLF and SLRN are not surprised by a tax bill from the state.

“Pennsylvanians have some of the highest student loan debt in the country – and when these students are finally eligible to see some of their loan forgiven through public service, they should not be burdened with a surprise tax bill,” Sen. Muth said. “I appreciate that the Administration and Department of Revenue took swift action to make this vital change to our state tax regulations. Thank you to Senator Lindsey Williams for leading on this important issue for the many of us with outstanding student loans, and to all of the staff who worked hard to make this happen.”

“Our public school teachers, nurses, counselors and other public service employees shoulder the demanding work of preparing our children for successful and enriching lives,” Sen Santarsiero said. “This fix to the tax bulletin will support these employees to focus on their careers serving our communities without being saddled with an unexpected state tax burden.”

“I’m grateful for the swift action by the Governor’s Administration after my colleagues and I raised this issue on behalf of our constituents,” said Sen. Williams. “Student loan debt is a massive hurdle that prevents many Americans from investing in their communities and local economies. I’m overjoyed that those who qualify for these loan forgiveness programs, like teachers and nurses, will no longer face a surprise tax bill just because they live in Pennsylvania.”

The Department of Revenue issued a revised tax bulletin today to clarify the language around student loan forgiveness and make clear that loan forgiveness through PSLF and SLRN is not considered taxable income.

MEDIA CONTACT: Elizabeth Rementer, ra-gvgovpress@pa.gov

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Senators Cappelletti and Santarsiero, Senate co-chairs of the PA SAFE Caucus, Respond to Pennsylvania Joining Multi-State Effort to Prevent Gun Violence and Enhance Public Safety

Harrisburg, PA − October 7, 2021 −  Senators Steve Santarsiero and Amanda M. Cappelletti, Senate Co-chairs of the bicameral PA SAFE Caucus applauded Governor Tom Wolf’s announcement today regarding the agreement that allows law enforcement agencies from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut to share crime gun data across state lines in order to detect, deter, and investigate gun crimes, as well as identify and apprehend straw purchasers, suspect dealers, firearms traffickers, and other criminals.

“The safety of our communities is critically important,” said Senator Santarsiero.  “As the gun violence epidemic needlessly rages on, we must take meaningful steps to protect the public and our police officers by focusing our efforts on stopping illegal gun activity.  Today’s announcement that Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut will share gun crime information is an important step that will give law enforcement access to better information to crack down on the proliferation of illegal firearms trafficking across state lines.  I applaud the agreement announced today and the commitment of all four states to public safety.”

“Taking steps to end the treacherous and horrifying firearm violence epidemic in this country has been one of my top priorities since coming into office. This is something that my constituents share my concerns on,” said Senator Cappelletti. “I’m proud to see Pennsylvania taking the steps to properly record and investigate firearm violence, in tandem with our neighboring states. Firearm violence is a nation-wide epidemic that has been treated on a state by state basis, leading to fragmentated and complex systems which do not work together to end the violence. By streamlining this information and collaborating across state lines, we can more wholly tackle this issue. Firearm trafficking crosses state lines, so our knowledge base must as well. This step is one of many we must take as a Commonwealth to end firearm violence once and for all.”

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) outlines the multi-state agreement for reciprocal crime data gun sharing that will establish protocols for officials in these states to distribute relevant information to their counterparts in an effort to decrease gun violence. About 50,000 guns are found to be diverted to criminals across state lines every year, federal data shows, and many more are likely to cross state lines undetected. Every step we take to mitigate that flow will be a step in the right direction.

At the legislative level, Sens. Cappelletti and Santarsiero recommend looking for comprehensive and intersectional measures including:

  • Senate Bill 761, establishing a 72-Hour waiting period for all firearm transfers, 
  • Senate Bills 581 and 582, requiring the safe storage of firearms,
  • Senate Bill 88, requiring universal background checks for the purchase or transfer of firearms, and
  • Senate Bill 217, requiring the reporting of lost or stolen firearms to local law enforcement within 24 hours.

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Senator Santarsiero Applauds $512,761 State Investment to Assist Bucks County Residents Experiencing Homelessness

BUCKS COUNTY – July 20, 2021 − Governor Tom Wolf today announced four organizations in Bucks County are getting a boost from state funds as part of a $1.5 million statewide investment to assist Pennsylvanians experiencing homelessness and prevent future homelessness.  A Woman’s Place, Family Services Association, Valley Youth House and YWCA Bucks County, will share $512,761 in Emergency Solutions Grant CARES Act funds.

Senator Steve Santarsiero (D-10) represents Doylestown, where A Woman’s Place is located, and applauded the investment saying, “Each of these four organizations does incredible work for residents of Bucks County experiencing tough times.  I want to thank Governor Wolf for prioritizing these funds for our region, which will help individuals and families especially impacted by the pandemic.”

The funding is part of the federal CARES Act funding, which will be distributed to Bucks County to allocate to the organizations.

“The emergency shelter operations of these remarkable service organizations will provide residents with a safe place to live as they begin to rebuild economic stability,” continued Sen. Santarsiero.  “Much progress has been made to combat COVID-19 and together we will continue to rise up and grow stronger as we move forward.”

For more information on the Emergency Solutions Grant CARES Act funds visit the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development website

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Senator Santarsiero Voices Support for State Solar Energy Commitment, Calls for Modernization of Renewable Energy Standards

BUCKS COUNTY – March 22, 2021 – State Senator Steve Santarsiero (D-10) today applauded Governor Wolf for the Commonwealth’s commitment to solar energy and called on the General Assembly to take up legislation to modernize the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act (AEPS).

“The Governor’s commitment to have 50% of state government powered by solar energy is exactly the type of forward progress we need in the fight against climate change,” said Sen. Santarsiero.  “I have long supported setting more aggressive, long-term targets to realize the economic and environmental potential of solar and wind energy in the Commonwealth.  We must act now if we are going to prevent the worst of the effects of climate change.”

Sen. Santarsiero introduced legislation in the 2018-2020 session to modernize the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act to expand Tier I requirement from 8% to 30% by 2030.  Sen. Santarsiero plans to reintroduce the legislation this session, with Senators Carolyn Comitta (D-19) and Art Haywood (D-4).

“It is long overdue that we implement stronger renewable energy goals to create good jobs, cut pollution and ensure a sustainable and prosperous Pennsylvania for future generations,” continued Sen. Santarsiero.  “It is time we tap into the enormous benefits from increasing our renewable energy goals and re-establish Pennsylvania as a clean energy leader.”

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Senator Santarsiero Calls on Governor Wolf to Prioritize Vaccines for Teachers

BUCKS COUNTY − March 2, 2021 − State Senator Steve Santarsiero (D-10) today called for the Pennsylvania Department of Health to expand Phase 1A eligibility to include teachers and school staff.  In a letter to Governor Wolf, Sen. Santarsiero urged him to prioritize vaccinations for teachers, in an effort to safely re-open schools for in-person instruction as quickly as possible. 

“Earlier today I sent a letter to the Governor asking that teachers and school staff be prioritized in Phase 1A for the COVID-19 vaccine, and that the state embark on an aggressive campaign to get them vaccinated quickly, so that we can safely reopen schools in the coming weeks.  Our teachers have done an amazing job of adapting to virtual and hybrid learning over the past year.  The safety of teachers, students and other school staff is a critical component of what must be a priority for our state: a return to classroom learning as soon as possible.”

Sen. Santarsiero cited the approval of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, along with the announcement of an agreement for Merck to also produce the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, to show an anticipated increase in both the state’s vaccine supply and an expedited timeline for vaccinations to occur.

Sen. Santarsiero wrote, “The benefits of in person instruction for students, both academically and from a mental health perspective, have been well documented.  With increased access to vaccine doses and more readily available PPE, we are now at a point at which we can get students back into schools in a way that protects both them and teachers and staff.”

The full text of the letter to the Governor is available here.

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Letter to Governor Wolf on Teacher Vaccines

Senator Santarsiero Announces $225 Million Grant Program for Small Businesses Impacted by COVID-19 and An Additional $200,000 in Awards to Local Businesses Through COVID-19 Working Capital Access Program

BUCKS COUNTY – June 9, 2020 – State Senator Steve Santarsiero (D-10) announced $225 million in grant programs for small businesses impacted by COVID-19.  The money originated from the federal CARES Act, and was allocated through the recently passed state budget.  The Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) will distribute the funds to the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), which will then administer the funding in the form of grants.

Eligible businesses will be able to use the grants to cover operating expenses as they transition to re-opening, and for technical assistance including training and guidance for business owners as they stabilize and relaunch their businesses.

“As all sectors of our economy begin to re-open, these grants will provide necessary resources to aid our small businesses and ease the transition for business owners,” said Sen. Santarsiero.  “As guidance becomes available on how businesses can apply for these grants, I look forward to sharing that information with our small business owners and working closely with local CDFIs to ensure businesses here in Bucks County receive the support they need.”

Sen. Santarsiero also announced the award of $200,000 to two businesses in his district from the Department of Community and Economic Development’s (DCED) COVID-19 Working Capital Access Program (CWCA).  Curtin and Heefner, located in Lower Makefield Township, and Well of Life Center for Natural Health, located in Doylestown, each received the maximum amount of $100,000 through this program.  This was the final round of CWCA funding, as the state moves toward re-opening. 

“I am pleased that this final round of CWCA funding has brought an additional $200,000 to two businesses in my district, bringing the total amount of funds received in the 10th district to $1.4 million,” said Sen. Santarsiero.  “With this last round of funding, businesses are continuing to receive critical support as we move into the yellow phase of re-opening.  While this program is winding down, the positive effects on these businesses will continue to be felt as they transition into the yellow phase of re-opening.”

The CWCA Program is administered by the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority (PIDA) and provides critical working capital financing to small businesses located within the Commonwealth that are adversely impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.  For more information on the CWCA program, visit the DCED website.

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Senators Santarsiero, Collett Ask Governor to Allow Businesses in Personal Service Industry to Operate During Yellow and Green Phases of Reopening

BUCKS COUNTY – May 28, 2020 – Senators Steve Santarsiero (D-10) and Maria Collett (D-12) were joined by State Representatives Perry Warren (D-31), Tina Davis (D-141), John Galloway (D-140) and Wendy Ullman (D-143) in asking Governor Wolf to issue an executive order permitting personal services businesses, such as barbers and salons, located in counties in the yellow or green phase to reopen with enhanced safety measures. 

The letter references a plan for reopening of the personal service industry used in neighboring Ohio, developed by a personal services workgroup at the request of Ohio’s Governor. The Ohio plan includes a list of requirements and best practices for businesses to implement, such as maintaining six feet of social distancing (except between the client and employee when appropriate), requiring employees to wear facial coverings (with some exceptions), requiring businesses to clean high-touch items after each use, and requiring employees to wear gloves and dispose of gloves in between tasks.

“During a productive call with 45 barbers and hair stylists from across the Commonwealth, they shared the process for reopening their industry that is being implemented in Ohio,” said Sen. Santarsiero.  “Based on the precautions they recommend, paired with the hundreds of hours of training that licensed professionals in the industry receive in sanitation, sterilization and hygiene, I believe it is time to safely reopen this sector of Pennsylvania’s economy.”

“I have heard from many hair, nail, and tanning salon owners in my district, the majority of these salons being women- and minority-owned, who are ready and able to implement these expanded safety guidelines and return to serving our communities,” said Sen. Collett. “It is important that we continue to generate and propose creative solutions and compromises so that businesses in yellow phase counties can begin to resume operations and rebuild while we continue to protect the public health.”

The full text of the letter to Governor Wolf can be found here.

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Senator Santarsiero Asks Governor to Allow Curbside Pick-Up for All Retail Establishments During COVID-19 Pandemic

BUCKS COUNTY – May 20, 2020 − Senator Steve Santarsiero (D-10) was joined by almost 80 democratic colleagues in the House and Senate yesterday, in asking Governor Wolf to support our small business community by allowing for curbside pick-up at all retail stores across the Commonwealth. 

During a press conference, Sen. Santarsiero spoke of the economic impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on small businesses and urged the Governor to allow all small retailers to open for curbside pick-up.  Sen. Santarsiero also shared that a letter, signed by 16 Senate Democrats would be sent to the Governor with the same request. A similar letter signed by more than 60 House members from the northeast, southeast and Philadelphia regions was also sent yesterday. 

“Curbside pick-up for retail will give a much-needed boost to small businesses across the Commonwealth, without sacrificing the efforts that have been made to flatten the curve,” said Sen. Santarsiero.  “As Bucks County and others remain in the red phase, our neighbors across the river in New Jersey are allowing curbside pick-up for all retail.  Allowing curbside pick-up for all retail in Pennsylvania will help support our local small businesses and keep money here in the state.” 

The letter notes the significant economic impact the Coronavirus pandemic has had on small retailers and the continued uncertainty and challenges that re-opening will bring.  During the press conference, Sen. Santarsiero also emphasized that businesses in Pennsylvania have already implemented curbside pick-up for restaurants, liquor stores and other essential services. 

“Over the last 10 weeks we have seen restaurants, liquor stores and essential services successfully operate curbside pick-up options for customers,” continued Sen. Santarsiero.  “This existing framework can easily be expanded to all retail across the Commonwealth, giving counties still in the red phase access to goods from local small businesses.”

The full text of the letter to Governor Wolf can be found here.

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Senator Santarsiero Calls for Legislative Action After Governor Wolf Signs Executive Order to Address Gun Violence Epidemic  

HARRISBURG − August 16, 2019 −After Governor Wolf signed an executive order aimed at curbing gun violence in Pennsylvania, state Senator Steve Santarsiero (D-10), co-chair of the PA Safe Caucus, called on legislative leaders in the state House and Senate to hold votes on common sense gun safety legislation.  

“I applaud the executive action taken by Governor Wolf to address the daily occurrence of gun violence,” Sen. Santarsiero said after the governor’s announcement. “The Pennsylvania General Assembly must now do its part and hold votes on common sense gun safety measures. During what can only be described as a public health crisis, refusing to vote on these measures would be grossly irresponsible on the part of the legislature.” 

In his announcement, Governor Wolf called upon the General Assembly to pass safe storage legislation, which would result in a reduction of accidental shootings, and to enact universal background checks for all gun purchases.        

Sen. Santarsiero is the primary sponsor of two safe storage bills currently awaiting action in the Senate Judiciary Committee. One requires the safe storage of a firearm when the gun owner resides with a person who may not lawfully possess a firearm, SB 137, and the other requires safe storage when the firearm is not in use, SB 138

During his time in the state House, Sen. Santarsiero continuously advocated for bills requiring universal background checks on all firearm purchases. Soon after being sworn in to the Senate this year, he joined state Senator Vincent Hughes (D-7) co-prime sponsors of Senate Bill 88, to close the private sale or so-called “gun show loophole” and impose universal background checks. 

Sen. Santarsiero is also a co-sponsor of Senate Bills 90 and 292. SB 90 would give law enforcement and families the ability to temporarily restrict an individual’s access to firearms when they present a clear danger to themselves or others. SB 292 would place a civilian ban on military-grade weapons. 

In a letter addressed to Governor Wolf on August 6th, Sen. Santarsiero and the PA Safe Caucus, a bicameral body dedicated to reducing gun violence, requested the governor convene a special joint session of the legislature to address the epidemic of gun violence and the violent ideology that resulted in the recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. 

Sen. Santarsiero, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to state Senator Lisa Baker (R-20), chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, requesting his bills be considered during upcoming public hearings to address the issue of mass shootings scheduled for this fall. In her announcement, Sen. Baker said the hearings are “intended as a prelude to action.” 

“Through the legislation my colleagues and I have introduced, we can protect the rights of responsible gun owners, while ultimately working to end the cycle of gun violence that has touched every corner of our society. Hearings are not enough. Leaders in the state House and Senate must bring forward the opportunity to vote on common sense firearm safety legislation,” Sen. Santarsiero concluded. 

 

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