Education News

Democratic lawmakers press for student debt relief in COVID legislation

By Mary Ellen Flannery

As COVID-19 closes workplaces across the U.S., upending careers and interrupting paychecks, Democratic lawmakers are seeking to ease the unrelenting burden of student loan debt on 45 million Americans.

Last week, Senate leaders, including Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Patty Murray (D-WA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), unveiled an emergency plan to provide much-needed relief to federal student loan borrowers. The plan, which is part of Senate Democrats’ $750 billion “Phase 3” response to the coronavirus crisis, would suspend federal student loan interest and require the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to make the monthly loan payments for all federal borrowers during the national emergency, so that every borrower gets at least a $10,000 loan payoff once the crisis has concluded.

On Sunday, former Vice President Joe Biden tweeted his support, saying, “Young people and other student debt holders bore the brunt of the last crisis. It shouldn’t happen again.”

NEA also strongly supports lawmakers’ efforts to relieve the enormous burden of student loan debt on Americans, so that they don’t have to choose during this crisis between paying their monthly loan payment or their rent or mortgage, or food or healthcare bills. To urge your lawmaker to give Americans the support they need, visit

Too many student borrowers are drowning in student loan debt. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, experts warned that student loan debt was having a negative impact on our economy, and will now only get worse,” said Durbin, in a statement. “As Congress continues to address the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis, it’ll be imperative that we provide real relief to these borrowers who are in serious need of our help.”

On Monday, House Democrats, led by Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), introduced similar legislation. Their bill, the Student Debt Emergency Relief Act, also would have ED assume monthly payments, but would cancel at least $30,000 of every borrower’s debt.

“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,” said Pressley, in a statement.

Under both proposals, the monthly loan payments made by the ED would still count toward the payments required for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, and all canceled debt would be exempt from taxation. The proposals also suspend any involuntary collection efforts, including wage garnishing of borrowers in default.

Last week, the Trump/DeVos administration announced that interest rates on federal student loans would be held to zero and that borrowers could enter forbearance, which allows them to skip payments, for 60 days. This announcement is welcome, but would delay educators’ road to forgiveness and doesn’t affect the balance of debt. Additionally, this process is not automatic, and borrowers would need to contact their federal loan servicer to take advantage of this opportunity.

Americans currently owe more than $1.6 trillion in student debt, including nearly $1.5 trillion to the federal government.



12 responses to “Democratic lawmakers press for student debt relief in COVID legislation

  1. Please pass The Student Debt Emergency Relief Act. This would help so many people struggling right now. While I only owe $8,800 on my once $64,000 student loan balance, I have paid over $96,500 over the years in payments and interest. Many times I have paid over the amount due, to pay down the principal balance faster, otherwise my balance would still be at over $23,000 after all these years of paying it down. I don’t expect a free education, but the way the system is set up, it literally costs a tremendous amount in additional interest, while the principal balance barely moves year after year. Most student loan balances average $56,000 or higher in the U.S. $30,000 in forgiveness would help so many people in a time when most are drowning in debt and out of work. Thank you.

  2. This is heartbreaking especially for a profession that is already underpaid and now we have been placed in an unique situation where we have to go over and beyond to reach out to our students to motivate not only them, but their parents to hang in there. During this pandemic, only the school building is closed, but learning is still going on. A bill should be passed to reduce student loan amounts. This will be more helpful than delaying payments. With student loan forgiveness, you will be investing in us and in return we would invest the savings back into boosting the economy. A teacher will always rise to the occasion no matter what the challenge is before us.

  3. Awesome, does it cover all student loans or only those that were taken out after a certain date. I’ve tried to get a loan forgiveness before, but it only covered student loans taken after a certain date. If it covers all student loans, how do I sign up?

  4. Passing this bill would bring relief to many families. I am in my 50s and still have a big balance of student loans, because I went back to school 15 years ago. this is a big burden to me and my family. I have taken deferments in the past, all that does is increase what you owe. I have tried to apply for loan forgiveness with no luck. Always sent back. Which is very confusing when i work at a school that is completely Native American, which answers to the federal government. Been there over 5 years with nothing to show for it. I am also in a low income area with over 50% free or reduced meals. along, with being in special education. this bill would help millions of people.

    1. I can totally relate! I too am in my 50s and have a huge balance of student loans due to getting my teaching degree later in life. I work in special education and a Title school and have been denied loan forgiveness. These are areas that should automatically place us in forgiveness. What is even more upsetting is the fact that I consolidated my loans and received a message that I don’t qualify for forgiveness. It isn’t fair that your payment history is wiped out and not considered in the forgiveness plan. We really need this bill to pass.

  5. In my house there a three of us paying student’s loan this will be of great relief as both of my kids were laid off due to this global situation n will have a hard time making there payments. I’m sure that many families are in similar situations and would be grateful to have an opportunity to think about paying for food and loss medical bills instead of Atrocious loans

  6. The bill doesn’t help the ones that there refund was taken right before March 13 2020 the ones who got there taxes already garnished before March 13 is struggling

  7. I am a 2006 Graduate with a BA in Management. While going to college, I worked full time and cared for my twins as a single parent with no help from their biological father. I didn’t qualify any scholarships however I did receive partial Pell Grant and WV Higher Education Grant. Once graduated, I consolidated all student loans and this left my debt of approx. $27,000. I set up automatic payments of $255.59 monthly to be deducted from my checking account. Its now 2020 and I still owe over $13,000. If you calculate this, I have paid back right at $40,000. Passing this bill would benefit many hard working Americans, especially during this difficult time!!

    1. I will probably go to my grave still paying for my student loan debt. I strongly support the government canceling all or parts of the student loan. As an educator, I sometimes do without necessities to meet the student loan monthly payment.

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