TOPEKA – The time may be right to move to the middle of no-where.
Citizens who live in rural areas of Kansas may get a second chance to save money on student loans and property taxes if SB125 is passed. The bill extends the rural opportunity zones, loan repayment program and income tax credit another five years which will help citizens moving to these locations save money.
Chad Austin, the senior vice president of the Kansas Hospital Association, was the first to speak on the bill. Austin argues that if the state does not extend these benefits for another five years, recruiting to rural hospitals would be made just that much harder. These benefits attract students who are just getting out of medical school to relocate to the rural areas in Kansas to save money paying back their student loans, as well as being able to find affordable housing.
After speaking with hospital representatives from all across Kansas, Austin said he found that most of the facilities are struggling to keep physicians, nurses and other allied practitioners.
He says this is one of the only bills that attracts those in the medical field to come work in the rural parts of Kansas.
"One of the aspects that our hospitals have continuously struggled with is the recruitment of healthcare professionals in our rural counties. These bills give us an opportunity to have a tool in our toolbox to bring individuals, even outside our state, back to our rural areas, " said Austin.
Rep. Jim Kelly (R-Independence) says his county, Montgomery, is a large user of the rural opportunity zone programs. Kelly says the programs are vital to recruiting out-of-state practitioners. He said that a number of these recruitments are not short term so the bill will be valuable to not only those choosing to work in rural areas but the companies as well. Kelly said in Montgomery County alone, 66 families have been retained because of these benefits.
More than 12 economic development directors have signed testaments to extend the bill The House will vote sometime in the next month to determine whether the program is extended.
Samantha Gilstrap is a University of Kansas senior from Charlotte, North Carolina, majoring in journalism.