U.S. House increases funding for rural veterinary debt relief program
Bill, which will next be voted on in the Senate, boosts Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program to $9 million.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3164 on June 25, a bill that includes more funding for the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP) as part of a larger agricultural appropriations minibus bill.
The VMLRP was created as a means of helping veterinarians offset student loan debt by working in rural areas with veterinary shortages. By committing to work at least three years in designated shortage areas, veterinarians can have up to $25,000 of their student loans paid off each year by the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
The bill increases funding for the VMLRP by $1 million to reach a total of $9 million. A press release from the AVMA applauds its passage: “The Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program has been a tremendous success in connecting food animal veterinarians in rural communities that so badly need their services and public health veterinarians that are essential to maintaining the health of animals and humans alike. This funding is an important step toward helping the program expand its reach,” said AVMA President Dr. John de Jong.
The bill maintains $3 million for the Veterinary Services Grant Program, which helps rural areas spend money on education, placement and retention of veterinarians and veterinary technicians and technology.
Another piece of legislation, the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act, has been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee. This bill would eliminate the need for VMLRP recipients to pay taxes on the forgiven amounts.