A bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate would boost funds for a grant that implements loan forgiveness for veterinarians that agree to work in rural regions that are dealing with a veterinary shortage.

The American Veterinary Medical Association released information about the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act (VMLRPEA) which was introduced by Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) this month of March. The bill is intended to increase funding for the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP), helping graduated veterinarians with their student loans.

With veterinary college graduates facing an average $140,000 in student loan debt and many rural areas facing a shortage of veterinarians, the VMLRP aims to kill two birds in one stone. Veterinary graduates would receive as much as $75,000 in loan repayments as long as he or she commits to working for a minimum of three years in an area designated by the government as a veterinary shortage area.

The current main problem with the veterinary program is a 39% income withholding tax on each award. This tax severely limits the number of awards that are doled out by U.S. Department of Agriculture each year. This new legislation would eliminate the income tax, and it would expand the program by allowing it to reach 100 more veterinarians every year.

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Both of the Senators who introduced the bill live in states with areas affected by the veterinary shortage, noting that animal care is especially important in agricultural communities. An increase in vet services would boost the economy, as well as make sure the food supply remains safe and healthy for the general public. The bill already has support from more than 160 veterinary-related and agriculture-related organizations.

“Access to quality animal care is critical to Idaho’s agricultural economy,” said Senator Crapo. “But too often, ranchers and farmers cannot access the care they need because of a lack of veterinarians. This legislation will increase the number of veterinary doctors serving in the areas where they are needed most, helping to strengthen rural economies and protect the safety of our food supply.”

 

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