Shapiro: $2,500 tax credit for new teachers, nurses, police officers

Last week, Gov. Josh Shapiro announced he will propose a three-year tax incentive of up to $2,500 a year for newly certified teachers, nurses and police officers in his upcoming Budget Address.

“Gov. Shapiro understands the critical workforce shortage the commonwealth faces and is committed to taking action to support workers and businesses,” a release said. Building an economy that works for everyone, ensuring that every Pennsylvania child receives a quality education, and making communities across the commonwealth safer are the top priorities that will be reflected in his March 7 address.

“I’ll be proposing a new $2,500 personal income tax credit to hire new cops, teachers and new nurses every year for at least the next three years,” Shapiro told KYW Newsradio and KDKA. “It’s going to help us put more teachers in the classroom, more nurses in the hospital, and more police officers and troopers in our communities.”

Shapiro previously shared that his upcoming budget proposal will include a 50% increase for the Manufacturing PA Innovation Program and a 25% increase in funding for computer science and STEM education through Pennsylvania’s PA Smart Program.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Pennsylvania borrowers to receive $67 million in debt cancellation through Navient settlement 

Pennsylvania borrowers impacted by allegedly deceptive practices by student loan servicer Navient, will receive $3.5 million in restitution payments and $67 million in debt cancellation. 

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced on Thursday that Navient has agreed to provide relief totaling $1.85 billion to borrowers across the country as part of a settlement with a coalition of 39 state attorneys general. 

The settlement follows claims that the student loan company used forbearance steering practices and “predatory” subprime private loans to maximize profits. 

“Navient repeatedly and deliberately put profits ahead of its borrowers – it engaged in deceptive and abusive practices, targeted students who it knew would struggle to pay loans back and placed an unfair burden on people trying to improve their lives through education,” said Shapiro. “Today’s settlement corrects Navient’s past behavior, provides much needed relief to Pennsylvania borrowers, and puts in place safeguards to ensure this company never preys on student loan borrowers again.” 

Shapiro sued Navient in October 2017 and co-led the litigation and negotiation of the settlement with Washington, Illinois, Massachusetts and California. 

The attorneys general claim that Navient steered borrowers into putting a forbearance on their loans, which added to the borrowers’ loan balances, pushing them further into debt. Navient could have instead offered services such as income-driven repayment plans or helped borrowers attain forgiveness of remaining balances of 20-25 years of qualifying payments. 

Navient also allegedly originated subprime private loans to students attending for-profit schools and colleges with low graduation rates, even though it knew that a vey high percentage of those borrowers wouldn’t be able to pay back their loans. 

Under the terms of the settlement, Navient will cancel the remaining balance on nearly $1.7 billion in subprime private student loan balances owed by nearly 66,000 borrowers nationwide. In addition, a total of $95 million in restitution payments of about $260 each will be distributed to approximately 350,000 federal loan borrowers who were placed in certain types of long-term forbearances. 

Approximately 13,000 Pennsylvania borrowers will receive $3.5 million in restitution payments and another 2,467 Pennsylvanians will receive $67 million in debt cancellation. 

“This is something myself, as well as many people in my position, felt like we would never get ahead of,” said Nicole S. of Easton. Nicole, a former student of the Art Institute of NYC, was a victim of the alleged practices.  

“So many of my loans, which are private, individual loans, they don’t offer consolidation or income driven payments—they would rather put you right into forbearance, so it sits there growing interest,” she said. “I’ve been trying to get a mortgage for five years. My interest rate is higher. Anything you need credit for is affected.” 

State College contractor accused of stealing thousands from employees

A State College-based contractor was charged with four counts of theft in one of the largest prevailing wage criminal cases on record, Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced on Thursday.

Glenn O. Hawbaker, Inc., one of the largest contractors to complete projects for the state, was charged with four counts of theft relating to violations of the Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage Act and the Federal Davis-Bacon Act after allegedly stealing its workers’ retirement, health and welfare money.

The alleged theft resulted in Hawbaker’s workers losing millions of dollars from their retirement, which the company used to lower its costs and increase profits, Shapiro’s office wrote in a press release.

“This is the third in a series of prosecutions related to wage theft and misclassification over the last few months – and it isn’t the last,” said Shapiro. “Too often, the workers that get stolen from are underpaid, have been denied benefits, and have been put into dangerous situations without appropriate training. My office is committed, with our partners in law enforcement, to keep fighting until workers are treated right.”

The charges come after a three-year investigation into the company’s practices. According to investigators, Hawbaker took wages from its workers by using money for prevailing wage workers’ retirement funds to contribute to retirement accounts of all of its workers, including its top brass.

Hawbaker also allegedly took funds intended for prevailing wage workers’ health and welfare benefits, to subsidize the cost of its self-funded health insurance plan.

Investigators said the company disguised the theft for decades by inflating its records of benefit spending.

The charges however, only account for the last five years due to the statute of limitations.