Coronavirus direct payments not enough for student loan borrowers
Even though Senate Republicans and President Trump would consider legislation that would send many Americans $ 2,000 as part of a new coronavirus stimulus package, advocacy groups say those struggling with student loans have need more help to overcome the economic fallout from the crisis.
Advocates suggest measures such as allowing students to defer loan payments. And indeed, Senate Democrats are proposing that the federal government go further and cover student loan payments for financially troubled borrowers.
The suggestions emerge as lawmakers discuss what to include in a new stimulus package, even as the Senate on Wednesday approved the $ 100 billion measure passed by the House on Saturday to force insurers and programs to government health care to provide free coronavirus tests to those in need. and pay for a new requirement that the federal government and small businesses grant up to two weeks of paid sick leave to employees who become ill with the virus.
But speaking on the Senate floor on Wednesday, Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the bill “has real flaws. It doesn’t even begin to cover all Americans who will need help in the days to come. “
Lawmakers drawing up the new stimulus plan hope to prepare it as early as next week.
The idea of sending direct payments to people is discussed as part of this effort. Republicans in the Senate and Trump have said the new measure will be considerably larger, possibly a trillion dollar package. Lobbyists familiar with the discussions of what will be in this package describe them as “fluid”.
Politics Republican Education Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander on Wednesday informed Republican senators of the idea of delaying student loan repayments for up to three months, but spokespersons for Alexander and McConnell did not not given more details on what is envisaged.
This would come on top of Trump’s announcement last week that he would forgo interest on federal student loans. However, student aid experts said it does not appear that the proposal would reduce the amount borrowers have to repay each month. Some of these borrowers may face job losses and reduced income as states and cities order restaurants and other businesses to close to contain the spread of the virus.
A short-term disruption in monthly payments would probably be acceptable to right-wing political experts, “at least as long as it’s a postponement and not some kind of forgiveness,” said Neal McCluskey, director of the Center for Educational of the Conservative Cato Institute. Freedom.
“A lot of people can have a hard time paying it off through no fault of their own – and the right-wing freaks, I think, see a big benefit, no downside in the long run, as long as the loans are finally paid off,” he declares. . “It is a reasonable accommodation as many people are essentially forced to quit their jobs in order to slow the spread of the disease.”
But “forgiveness, ”he said,“ is not justified, especially since many people in debt are still working and some in very lucrative fields. But in an emergency, it is reasonable to make quick and general decisions as long as they are temporary. “
On the other hand, Inside higher education learned on Tuesday that the stimulus package put in place by Senate Democrats would go beyond a three-month postponement. This would not only defer monthly payments, but also reimburse amounts owed – an idea championed by Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts.
Democrats have not released details of their plan. Speaking in the Senate on Monday, Senate Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said only, “Our proposal will allow you to defer your mortgages for six months. No penalties, fees or impact on your credit. We will do the same for student loans.
But according to a PowerPoint presentation on the proposal distributed to Democratic senators this week, the plan would “cancel monthly student payments and ask the federal government to pay,” raising questions about whether federal dollars would be used to pay off borrower loans.
Schumer’s office confirmed on Wednesday that Democrats are offering to pay off borrowers’ debt.
“Our proposal would work in conjunction with the president’s directive to waive interest on student loans. So our payments would actually go straight out of the principal balance. “
It is not known if it will be included in the final package. Spokesmen for McConnell and Alexander declined to comment on the idea.
Meanwhile, advocacy groups lobbied for breaks for borrowers, in addition to direct payments.
If the purpose of sending direct payments is to stimulate the economy, it will be pointless if distressed borrowers use much of it just to make loan repayments, said Wesley Whistle, senior policy adviser. and strategy at New America, a center-left Washington think tank. But temporarily excusing borrowers from making student loan repayments “ensures that the borrower’s direct payment is not used on their loans and can provide more relief or stimulation,” he said.
The Democratic plan, he said, would mean borrowers “will not only be relieved of their payments, but will see their balances drop. And with the interest relief, borrowers would actually make more progress toward their loans than if they were making their payments otherwise. “
James Kvaal, president of the Institute for College Access & Success, also called for relief for student loan borrowers.
“Providing student loan payment relief is essential regardless of additional stimulus proposals such as cash payments,” he said in a statement.
“Sending checks directly to people to be used for student loan payments will undermine the goals. Now is the time to focus on the immediate expenses. Student loan repayments can and should wait, ”said Ben Miller, senior director of post-secondary education at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank in Washington.
Bob Shireman, director of excellence in higher education and senior researcher at the Century Foundation, a progressive think tank, said that the federal government making loan repayments for borrowers is administratively feasible and ‘it’ is a good approach ”.
However, he, and even supporters of the Senate Democrats’ plan such as Miller, have said that the federal government making payments for borrowers raises questions of fairness. This is because it would disproportionately help people make large monthly payments. On the other hand, “those who have had difficulty paying make lower payments on income-based repayment or other longer repayment terms,” Shireman noted.
Miller agreed. “Any proposal to make payments on behalf of borrowers must contain provisions so that borrowers with lower balances do not receive disproportionate advantages,” he said.