WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Democrats on Capitol Hill are calling on the federal government to cancel student loan payments for millions of Americans.
Unemployment numbers have soared with widespread shutdowns of businesses aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.
“Cancel student loan payments during the duration of the coronavirus,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called on his colleagues on the Senate floor. “We’ve got to help the students and those with big loans on their backs.”
He has a plan that would make the federal government pick up the tab — up to $10,000 for each borrower.
But so far, that’s not included in a nearly $1 trillion relief package that Congress is working on. The U.S. Department of Education has agreed only to waive interest and fees, providing flexibility to defer payments by up to 60 days. To request a deferral, borrowers should contact their student loan service.
“They can pay on those loans later,” said Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, who explained she wants to help students but also wants to be fair. “Certainly there are a lot of people who chose not go to school. … We want to be sure we’re being equitable.”
“Give me a break,” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, demanded. “How do they not step in right now?”
She said if the feds bail out large corporations, they should also bail out average Americans.
“Regular families who went to college to do better, we’re not giving them anything? How dare we?” she wondered. “We have $1.6 trillion in student debt. We need to deal with that.”
Schumer said Democrats’ ideas are being ignored by the Republicans who control the Senate and the White House and they have had “virtually no input.”
Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnel, R-Ky., said he wants the bill finalized and passed as soon as possible.