FILE - State Rep. Jeff Keicher, R-Sycamore

State Rep. Jeff Keicher, R-Sycamore, speaks on the House floor.

(The Center Square) – A measure that would allow some of the state's social workers to be reimbursed for their student loans through the use of state funds awaits the governor's signature.

If approved by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, the measure offers taxpayer funding of up to $6,500 in student loan assistance to borrowers who have been employed at an eligible employer for at least one year.

Senate Bill 3761 expands the School Social Work Shortage Loan Repayment Program to include social workers employed by an Illinois municipality.

The Social Work Loan Forgiveness initiative was passed last year. The updated measure includes social workers employed by schools across the state and social workers who work for a municipality but does not report to the police department. The bill also gives priority to minority candidates who are under-represented in the social work profession.

State Rep. Mark Walker, D-Arlington Heights, who is the House sponsor, explained during debate last month that more programs could be on the way.

"This is an expansion from social workers that work for educational establishments and it was added as a response from local municipalities that they are eligible," Walker said. "We also believe we will have more programs like one for the joint first responders."

Walker acknowledged the cost could be up to $6 million in state taxpayer funds. The measure found bipartisan support.

"From my side, this actually is a good piece of legislation that will help get some social workers back into our state," state. Rep. Jeff Keicher, R-Sycamore, said. "We did have a split vote because some of us on our side would like to light this up like a Christmas tree."

Staff Reporter

Andrew Hensel has years of experience as a reporter and pre-game host for the Joliet Slammers, and as a producer for the Windy City Bulls. A graduate of Iowa Wesleyan University and Illinois Media School, Andrew lives in the south suburbs of Chicago.