Governor Larry Hogan recently announced the launch of a new program to help the State recruit and retain employees in critical workforce shortage areas. Established by Executive Order 01.01.2018.17, the Maryland SmartWork Initiative offers eligible employees working in targeted shortage areas (including public safety, psychology, nursing, and information technology) state assistance to repay student loan debt.
The maximum benefit is $20,000 over a ten-year period. Eligible state employees who are paying down their children’s (25 and under) student loans may also qualify for this benefit.
According to a press release:
“Our administration is doing everything we can to ensure that all Marylanders have access to a college education, which includes making college as affordable and accessible as possible,” said Governor Hogan. “This innovative program will provide many of our hardworking state employees relief from the high levels of college debt that many families face.”
The explosion in student loan debt in the last 20 years is unprecedented. Student loan debt now totals $1.6 trillion, which has recently surpassed credit card debt in volume. With nearly 60% of Maryland college students graduating with student debt, averaging more than $27,000 per student, this massive debt is preventing Marylanders from buying homes and investing in their retirement.
Beginning today, eligible state employees will be able to download an application and other documents verifying school(s) attended and loan payments that have been made by the employee during the repayment interval. The state expects demand to be robust and is preparing for a large volume of applications.
The initiative is administered by the Office of Personnel Services and Benefits of the Department of Budget and Management. Additional information can be found here.