Last week, U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, D-Fla., showcased his “Income-Driven Student Loan Forgiveness Act” which would make the U.S. Education Department “provide federal student loan forgiveness to borrowers who make less than $100,000 per year.”
Lawson brought out the bill in the middle of last month though it has not garnered much traction in recent weeks.
“Due to the pandemic, stagnant wages and unemployment are having a negative impact on college graduates who are unable to make enough to pay back their loans. The Income-Driven Student Loan Forgiveness Act as introduced will help more than 43 million Americans who are buried under $1.6 trillion in federal student loan debt by wiping out all of their undergraduate loan debt,” Lawson’s office noted.
“Americans are burdened by student loan debt now more than ever with 69 percent of college students taking out loans to accommodate the increasing cost of higher education. This is greater for communities of color. More than 40 percent of African-American families have student loan debt and typically take on more debt to attend college,” Lawson’s office added. “Studies show that canceling student debt would help narrow the racial wealth gap, provide immediate relief to millions of Americans during the pandemic and recession, and provide a consumer-driven stimulus to the economy.”
Lawson weighed in on the bill on Thursday.
“Canceling student debt will help increase economic activity and provide our nation’s graduates with the relief and opportunity they deserve,” Lawson said. “Students and families are taking on tens of thousands of dollars in debt to pay for a quality education. Large amounts of student loan debt prevent young adults from making large purchases, like cars and homes, and it prevents them from having the capital necessary to contribute to our economy in innovative and creative ways. The Income-Driven Student Loan Forgiveness Act will alleviate pressure on our borrowers and give them a better start in life.”
The bill was sent to the U.S. House Education and Labor and the Ways and Means Committee last month. So far, Lawson has not reeled in any co-sponsors in the House and there is no companion measure over in the U.S. Senate.
Lawson is also backing another student loan payment reform. Two months ago, congressional Democrats, led by U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., introduced a resolution calling on President Joe Biden “to tackle the student loan debt crisis by using existing authority under the Higher Education Act to cancel up to $50,000 in student loan debt for federal student loan borrowers” and have him “use executive authority to cancel student loan debt and ensure there is no tax liability for federal student loan borrowers resulting from administrative debt cancellation.”
Backers of the proposal noted that more than 43 million Americans have $1.6 trillion in federal student loan debts.
Lawson backed that proposal.
“Student debt is holding millions of Americans back, and the COVID-19 pandemic is making it harder for those with student loans to make ends meet right now,” Lawson said. “Providing student debt relief will help Floridians weather this crisis, increase economic activity and provide our nation’s students with the relief and opportunity they deserve.”
Congressional Republicans lined up against the proposal.
“It’s terrible policy, terribly unfair to people who worked hard and paid their tuition without taking the loans,” U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Penn., said. “What about all the extremely affluent people who are going to just get a $50,000 giveaway from the federal government? It’s terrible policy.”
“I just think it’s kind of a dangerous path to head down,” said U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Tex. “To basically say that people don’t have to live up to the agreements they’ve made to me is a bad, bad idea. ”
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