New Jersey to Launch ‘Pay It Forward’ Career Training Program

By: Helena Perray, Follow South Jersey Community Resources Intern

Photo: Jon Bradley | Follow South Jersey

TRENTON, N.J. — On Monday, Governor Phil Murphy and the New Jersey CEO Council announced plans to launch the state’s first Pay It Forward post-pandemic support program.

The program is also the first of its kind nationwide, and it’ll serve to provide low-income New Jerseyans with the support they need to train for in-demand careers after what was a difficult professional and financial year for many.

“As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial that we remain focused on building a stronger, fairer New Jersey economy,” Gov. Murphy said in a press release. “The New Jersey Pay It Forward Program will play a key role in achieving this goal by opening up new opportunities for New Jerseyans who have been shut out of good, family-sustaining jobs in the past. I am excited to partner with the members of the New Jersey CEO Council to launch this first-in-the-nation program that will bolster New Jersey’s recovery from COVID-19 and set the stage for long-term, equitable economic growth.” 

According to a press release, the program will provide qualifying residents with fee- and interest-free loans that will fund their participation in state-approved career training programs. The programs will incorporate intensive training to prepare participants for future career opportunities.

Students who are currently enrolled in non-degree credential and certificate programs will also be able to receive these loans and grant funds in order to take part in, short-term training.

The Pay it Forward program funds will act as a “last dollar” option for New Jersey residents. It will provide no-interest loans for “only the gap left over after students have exhausted all the free resources for which they are eligible,” according to a release.

Participants will receive industry-recognized certificates and skills following their completion of the programs, and they won’t be required to repay their loans until they have completed their training and met the state’s approved level of income.

The program will implement an “income-based repayment model” that will generate appropriate monthly payments unique to each participant, given that their income doesn’t fall below the state’s approved level for making repayments.

According to a press release, if participants are unable to fully repay their loans within five years of completing the program, their debt will be forgiven.

“Participants will also receive wrap-around services such as help with child-care and transportation needs as well as stipends to support their living expenses, and they will not be required to repay these non-tuition costs,” the state said in a release. “This is all possible because the Pay It Forward Program is not designed to turn a profit … the expenses that are repaid by trainees receiving Pay It Forward Loans will recycle back to support the next round of training for their fellow New Jersey residents.”

State residents who will be eligible for the Pay It Forward program include those who have been unemployed long-term, receive public assistance, have been previously incarcerated, were laid off due to the pandemic, and those who are self-employed and faced unemployment or underemployment during COVID-19.

In jumpstarting the establishment of the Pay It Forward fund, the New Jersey Higher Education Student Assistance Authority has made a Request for Proposals for a program manager. Proposals must be submitted by July 1.

The Request for Proposals can be viewed here.

“NJ Pay It Forward will enable New Jersey workers whose careers have been derailed by the pandemic and economic turmoil to pursue valuable training that will ease their entry into more lucrative and sustainable jobs,” HESAA Executive Director David J. Socolow said in a press release. “We are delighted to work with Governor Murphy, many of New Jersey’s prominent business leaders, and our partner State agencies to help New Jerseyans recover and thrive.”

This article was produced by a Follow South Jersey news intern thanks to a grant provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through the New Jersey Health Initiatives program to create hyper-local news to meet the informational and health needs of the City of Bridgeton, N.J.