Some of New Jersey’s largest employers are creating an interest- and fee-free loan program that would be forgiven after five years to help pay for New Jerseyans’ costs of training and education.
Formally called the “New Jersey Pay It Forward” program, the governor’s office said the goal is to prepare state residents for careers and jobs coming out of the 15-month COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Gov. Phil Murphy, in the June 21 announcement, the program would offer “new opportunities for New Jerseyans who have been shut out of good, family-sustaining jobs in the past.”
The program has the sign-off of some of the state’s major employers that make up the New Jersey CEO Council: BD, Campbell Soup Co., Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co., Prudential Financial, PSEG, RWJBarnabas Health, Verizon and Zoetis.
In October, several of those employers agreed to hire 30,000 workers in the state over the next decade and spend a combined $250 million on state-based vendors by 2025.
Ken Frazier – outgoing chief executive officer of Merck and co-chair of the council – said the program “sets a high bar for states and their business communities as the entire country takes stock and rallies to recover from the pandemic.”
‘Last dollar option’
Students enrolled in non-degree training and certificate programs could receive grants or zero-interest loans. Their repayment would be based on a percentage of their monthly income, and any amount left after five years would be forgiven.
Borrowers would be limited to using the aid as a “last dollar option,” meaning the money is intended to bridge the gap between their available funding and the total cost of their training. They would be able to get other “wrap-around services” to hold them over while undergoing their job training, including child care and transportation needs.
Eligibility is limited to those receiving public assistance, “people who have been unemployed long-term,” those who lost their jobs because of the pandemic – be it someone laid off by their employer or out of work at their self-employed business – and those formerly incarcerated.
Murphy’s office said that the loan program is not designed to generate a profit–any money repaid is lent out to someone else.