March 21, 2020

Van Hollen, Warren, Brown, and Durbin Urge Congressional Negotiators to Cancel Student Loan Payments and Debt in COVID-19 Response Package

United States Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) joined Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) in sending a letter to Congressional negotiators, urging them to cancel student loan payments and debt in the COVID-19 response package. 

"Students and families should not have to worry that they will go into default on their student loans during or immediately after this emergency--they should be worried about keeping themselves and their loved ones safe," the lawmakers wrote. "Student loan debt in this country is already crushing for many and without immediate and bold relief, it will prevent people from fully participating in our economy."

In this third stimulus package, Congress must authorize the U.S. Department of Education to make monthly student loan payments on behalf of borrowers, equivalent to the amount due for all federal student loan borrowers for the duration of the national emergency declarations. These provisions would provide much-needed relief to federal student loan borrowers through the duration of this crisis, and provide a long-term economic stimulus to help see the country through this crisis.

The lawmakers made the following three asks of negotiators:

  • Immediate monthly payment relief for student loan borrowers: Authorize the Department of Education to immediately take over the monthly payments of federal student loan borrowers during this public health emergency.
  • Across the board student loan debt cancellation: Cancel at least $10,000 of student debt for all borrowers to help jumpstart our economy and make a significant difference for American families.
  • Shield borrowers from involuntary collections and offsets during this public health crisis: Shield all student loan borrowers from any federal offsets that can prevent them from receiving critical benefits and supports, such as the seizure or garnishment of wages, federal salaries, Social Security Benefits, and federal income tax returns like the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit.

"Congress must act swiftly and decisively in this moment to ensure that the health and safety of all communities, and of our economy, is a top priority," the lawmakers wrote. "During this public health emergency, no person should have to choose between paying their student loan payment, putting food on the table or keeping themselves and their families safe and healthy."

Joining the letter are Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.).

The full text of the letter is available here.