A N A C T
RELATING TO EDUCATION
It is enacted by the General Assembly as follows:
SECTION 1. Title 16 of the General Laws entitled "Education" is hereby amended by adding thereto the following chapter:
NURSING LOAN REPAYMENT PROGRAM
16-62.1-1. Legislative findings. -- The purpose of this chapter is to provide an incentive, in the form of interest reduction on certain types of education loans, to students who desire to serve the health care needs of individuals in Rhode Island by enrolling in a registered nurse training program. The general assembly has found and hereby declares that it is in the public interest and essential to the welfare and well being of the inhabitants of the state that a sufficient number of registered nurses be attracted to Rhode Island to serve the health care needs of our population. The general assembly further finds that there is a growing shortage of qualified registered nurses to meet the needs of the state's population. The general assembly determines that it is vital to the welfare of the state's citizenry that an incentive be provided to attract and retain registered nurses in the state to meet their needs.
16-62.1-2. Definitions. -- For the purpose of this chapter, the following words and terms shall have the following meanings unless the context clearly requires otherwise:
(1) "Authority" means the governmental agency and public instrumentality authorized, created and established pursuant to section 16-62-4.
(2) "Eligible registered nurse" means an individual who holds a valid Rhode Island license to practice as a professional registered nurse and who works as a registered nurse in this state and can document that they work at least half time (average of twenty (20) hours per week).
(3) "Loan" means a federal Stafford (FFELP) loan made by the authority or one of its participating lenders, issued after July 1, 2000 and not in default.
(4) "Eligible employment" shall mean employment as a registered nurse responsible for patient care at any Rhode Island licensed health care facility, including, but not limited to, hospitals, nursing homes and home nursing care providers.
16-62.1-3. Interest forgiveness on loans. -- An eligible registered nurse shall be eligible to have the interest on his or her loan forgiven for each year he or she has eligible employment in the state up to a maximum of four (4) years and prior to the termination of this program.
16-62.1-4. Application for loan interest forgiveness. -- Any individual seeking interest forgiveness pursuant to the provisions of this chapter shall apply to the authority on forms prescribed by the authority containing such information as the authority deems advisable to fulfill the provisions of this program. The authority's executive director, or his or her designee, shall determine the eligibility of each applicant.
16-62.1-5. Continued eligibility. -- Any individual deemed eligible shall not less than annually submit to the authority such information as the authority may prescribe to determine such individual's continued eligibility for the interest forgiveness on his or her eligible loan hereunder.
16-62.1-6. Penalty for failure to maintain eligibility. -- In the event the authority determines that an individual is no longer eligible for the interest forgiveness on his or her loan as provided hereunder, such an individual shall be required to pay the holder of his or her loan forthwith all accrued interest and any late payment penalties which has accrued during the period of such ineligibility.
16-62.1-7. Regulations. -- The authority may promulgate such regulations as it deems necessary to implement the provisions of this interest forgiveness program.
16-62.1-8. No adverse effect on authority's bond issues or rating. -- Notwithstanding any provision hereof to the contrary, to the extent, if any, that this interest forgiveness program shall have any material adverse effect on the authority's ability to issue negotiable bonds and notes, the authority shall be empowered to suspend this program on a prospective basis, provided that any individual who has previously been determined to be eligible for the program's benefits shall retain their eligibility up to the maximum period prescribed hereunder.
16-62.1-9. Severability of provisions. -- The provisions of this chapter are severable. If any provisions are deemed invalid by a court of competent jurisdiction, that determination shall not affect the validity of the remaining provisions.
16-62.1-10. Termination. -- The interest benefits granted under this program shall cease after December 31, 2010.
SECTION 2. This act shall take effect upon passage.