I looked into the NELRP last year in an effort to help some of the nurses who work in my hospital receive the help they offer. I had a very disappointing experience in that talking with them, getting information, etc. is very difficult. (People not returning phone calls, not being able to anwer basic questions when I did get them on the phone, etc.)
So ... the impressions I am going to share below might not be totally correct. But this is the best I could figure out.
Apparently, many (but not all) hospitals are officially eligible. However, there is limited money available, forcing them to rank the hospitals according to the degree of nursing shortage in their region. The money goes to nurses working in the hospitals in the areas of greatest need first, then to those with lesser need.
Because my town was considered to be of low priority and neighboring towns (that I can see out my office window) were considered to be of high priority, I was curious as to how the priority rankings were established. No one at their office could tell me from where they get their figures to determine the degree of the shortage and the hospital's need.
Last year's guidelines also said that they rank/prioritize applicants based on their degree of financial need. The degree of need is based on the amount of your student loan compared to the amount you are earning as an RN. For example, if you are making $45,000.00 as an RN and your loan is $10,000.00 you are ranked of much lower priority than someone making the same salary whose loan is $50,000.00 because you should have a much easier time paying it off out of your salary.
I helped several people complete the application process, but no one at my hospital was selected to receive any money. I think it was because the town was not on the "high priority list" even though many of our nurses live in the neighboring towns that are on that list.
All that said, if I had a large student loan, I would apply -- because you never know when funding may be increased, the priority list changed, etc.