A proposal backed by U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., to allow cancer patients to defer public student loan payments was included as part of the minibus backed by Congress this week.

Modeling her proposal off of Ros-Lehtinen’s and U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter’s, R-Col., “ Deferment for Active Cancer Treatment Act,” U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., was able to include a provision allowing the deferments as part of the minibus.

“We currently allow individuals to defer student loan payments for various qualifying reasons such as going back to school, joining the armed services, looking for a job, or becoming permanently disabled,” McCollum said. “Unfortunately, for the more than 70,000 young adults diagnosed with cancer each year, cancer treatment has not qualified for deferment.”

Ros-Lehtinen weighed in on Friday. The first woman to the lead the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee and currently the chairwoman of the U.S. House Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, Ros-Lehtinen is retiring this year after almost three decades in Congress. Ros-Lehtinen was first elected in a special election, replacing the legendary U.S. Rep. Claude Pepper, D-Fla., back in 1989.

On Friday, Ros-Lehtinen said she was glad to see McCollum was able to get the proposal over the finsh line.

“Cancer patients should not have to worry about their student loan payments while fighting for their lives. I’m so pleased that my colleague, Betty, was able to get this important bill included in the upcoming minibus where it will come to a vote by the full House,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “Along with my colleague, Ed, we have fought to ensure that student loan payments don’t take precedence over health and I urge my colleagues to do the same.”

“The hardships created for individuals and families dealing with a cancer diagnosis is only exacerbated by the financial burden of student loans when receiving treatment. This bipartisan provision is a no brainer and choosing between paying your medical bills or paying your student loans is a decision no person should be forced to make.”  Perlmutter said.

McCollum was able to get the provision included during the U.S House Appropriations Committee markup of the Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies appropriations bill which passed on a voice vote. Congress is expected to pass the minibus before adjourning.

“I hope that without having to worry about making their student loan payments, these patients will be able to focus on what is most important—beating their disease and getting healthy,” McCollum said. “I want to thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, especially Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole and Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro for working with me on this important amendment.”

 

Kevin Derby can be reached at Kevin.Derby@floridadaily.com.

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