Maine launches incentive programs to boost state’s medical workforce
June 7—Gov. Janet Mills on Tuesday unveiled two new programs designed to bolster the ranks of the state’s medical professionals by reducing their student debt.
A program will help Maine healthcare workers repay their student loans. The program, which will be administered by the Finance Authority of Maine, will provide up to $75,000 in loan repayments over three years for medical, dental and behavioral health professionals and up to $40,000 for nursing teachers.
Initial funding for the loan repayment program will be $2 million, enough for up to 26 scholarships of $75,000 or 50 scholarships of $40,000. The application deadline is September 1.
To be eligible, program applicants must work in Maine or commit to working in the state for at least three years. Among other factors, applicants will be judged on an essay about their commitment to the state as a health care provider and the impact program assistance could have on their career goals. More details are available on the FAME website.
Both programs are considered new, said William Norbert, government affairs and communications manager for FAME, although the loan repayment program for nursing teachers was passed by the Legislative Assembly a few years ago. but was never funded. Norbert said the money Mills announced on Tuesday came from federal American Rescue Plan Act funds and was to be spent within three years.
He said if the programs are deemed a success, state officials will determine how to fund the loan repayment programs going forward.
Mills also announced that she is adding $2 million to the Doctors for Maine’s Future Scholarship program, which aims to help pay for the medical education of aspiring doctors in hopes they will later practice in Maine. The program awards up to $25,000 in annual scholarships to students attending the Maine Medical Center Tracking Program at Tufts University School of Medicine or the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Students seeking a scholarship must have a connection to the state. For example, a student who graduated from a high school or college in Maine and whose parents or guardians live in the state would meet the criteria for the scholarship.
The scholarship program is also administered by FAME, and Norbert said the agency provides $400,000 per year from its state appropriation for the program and typically funds four scholarships per year. The funding Mills announced Tuesday will help pay for four new scholarships per school, Norbert said, and Tufts and UNE will also each provide four additional scholarships under the program.
“A strong, high-quality health care system is essential to the health of Maine residents and the health of our economy,” the governor said in a statement. “Health care provides meaningful and important work and, as the pandemic has shown us, it is work that is more crucial than ever. But for too many people, the cost of education puts health professions out of reach.