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Warner asks for student loan relief

U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) led 16 senators in a letter to Senate leaders urging them to include long-term relief for millions of Americans with student loans in the next coronavirus relief package as negotiations between Senate Republicans and Democrats continue.

The Tuesday, Aug. 11, letter comes after the president issued an executive order that only places a three-month forbearance for some student loan borrowers, leaving nearly 8 million student loan borrowers to fend for themselves in the midst of an economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Due to the financial impact of COVID-19, many student loan borrowers faced the uncertainty of meeting their monthly repayment obligations in addition to paying for their basic necessities. To help provide a financial lifeline, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act which provided six months of interest free relief for certain federal student loan borrowers, through September 30. With Senate Republicans and Democrats still hammering out a deal on the next COVID-relief package, the president signed an executive order to extend existing CARES Act student loan repayment protections for another three months, which still leaves nearly 8 million Americans unable to attain this critical relief.

“Unfortunately, nearly 8 million borrowers were not eligible for the CARES Act relief, and will not benefit from the president’s executive order. These doughnut holes must be closed. And, while administrative action extending the forbearance will provide relief to many borrowers, it is not clear how the U.S. Department of Education will handle crucial issues related to credit toward forgiveness, credit reporting, loan rehabilitation, and collections that were addressed by the CARES Act. It is critical that Congress provide this relief legislatively so that payments do not resume before the economy is showing signs of recovery, that borrowers do not experience collateral damage from further doughnut holes in the executive order, and that no one faces unnecessary uncertainty about the status and treatment of their loans during this difficult time,” wrote the senators.

In the letter, the senators underscore that student loan debt has had a disproportionate impact on Black and Latino Americans. Approximately 90 percent of Black students and 72 percent of Latino students take out loans, compared to 66 percent of their white counterparts. While the student loan crisis has always contributed to inequality in the U.S., the COVID-19 crisis has only exposed and exacerbated these inequities.

To help make sure that all student loan borrowers have access to financial relief, the senators also urged that the next COVID relief package include long-term financial relief for all federal student loan borrowers through September 2021, which mirrors provisions from the House passed HEROES Act.