WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — A new program Is assisting nurses who’ve been helping in the fight -against COVID-19. A program that could even make a difference in their finances.

Eyewitness News spoke with one Scranton nurse about what the initiative means to her.

“I decided to apply for it because I heard about it from this State Rep. Robin Walker’s presentation,” explained Leann Edwards, Nurse, Moses Taylor Hospital.

Leann Edwards is a Registered Nurse (RN) at Moses Taylor Hospital in Scranton. She graduated from Penn State University with two degrees in 2016, racking up $75,000 in student loans.

“I go into the schools and I see the students now saying I want to be a nurse, I want to go into that field. And that is sort of surprising to me after everything the medical community has gone through,” said
Robin Walker, Higher Education Access Partner, Northeast Region.

The COVD-19 nursing workforce initiative was unveiled in September. Part of this initiative: the “Student Loan Relief for Nurses Program” was established to help nurses throughout the commonwealth who have been fighting tirelessly on the frontlines.

“Stressful. Everybody has a lot of questions. We were kind of dealing with it altogether, but we all showed up and did our jobs,” Edwards explained.

The state is using $5 million of its COVID relief funds to provide some financial relief to those frontline workers. nurses can be selected to get up to $2,500 for each year of work, beginning with 2020. the funds will last for no more than 3 years, with a maximum benefit of $7,500.

I feel like if people know they are willing to work through a pandemic and see some type of benefit at the end of it. It wasn’t just, oh we are showing up to work and doing our jobs, we couldn’t work from home. People get sick 365 days a year, they keep having babies. That’s what we have to deal with so no matter if it is rain or shine, we still have to go,” Edwards said.

Qualifying nurses must work in Pennsylvania. If selected, the payment will go directly to your loan servicers..

The application process is now open and will close on March 1. Applications can be found online at PA Student Loan Relief for Nurses Program.