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Representative Ilhan Omar holding an American flag

Democrats Announce a Plan to Forgive Student Debt Amidst the Coronavirus Crisis

Gettyimages | Chip Somodevilla
By Robin Zabiegalski

The coronavirus crisis has already wreaked havoc on the U.S. economy and people's personal finances. Many people are out of work without pay because their workplaces have been forced to shut down because of the pandemic. Others have been laid off outright.

Congress has been working on several plans to help individuals and businesses struggling during these difficult times including multiple relief packages aimed at bolstering unemployment benefits, increasing access to food programs, and sending direct checks to workers.

On Monday, two House members released their plan to help Americans save money by canceling $30,000 of student debt for each person who has student loan debt.

Here's everything you need to know.

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Student Debt Relief Act

Ayanna Pressley and Ilhan Omar
Gettyimages | Tom Williams

Representatives Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley introduced their Student Debt Relief Act bill on Monday. The legislation ensures that people who are already struggling financially don't have to worry about paying their student loan bills right now.

The bill proposes that all student loan payments be suspended for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic. The bill also proposes canceling $30,000 of every person's student loan debt. To protect the financially vulnerable even further, the bill prevents loan companies from taking people's wages or Social Security checks if they've defaulted on their loans.

Warren Proposed a Less Extensive Plan

Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren
Gettyimages | SAUL LOEB

Elizabeth Warren and other Senate Democrats including Chuck Schumer proposed a similar student debt relief plan last week. Their plan didn't go as far as Pressley and Ilhan's. They proposed forgiving $10,000 of student loan debt to take the pressure off struggling American workers.

On Monday, Joe Biden tweeted that he supported their plan saying, "Additionally, we should forgive a minimum of $10,000/person of federal student loans, as proposed by Senator Warren and colleagues. Young people and other student debt holders bore the brunt of the last crisis. It shouldn't happen again."

What Congress is Already Planning

United States Capitol Building
Gettyimages | ak_phuong

Student loan debt relief is part of the current coronavirus relief package that Congress is working to approve. In the current version of that bill, interest on student loans would stop accruing for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic. The current bill also proposes that people with student loans wouldn't have to make payments for six months.

Democrats have argued that the current legislation doesn't go far enough. They're arguing that hitting the pause button on student loans still leaves people hanging once the crisis is over, while forgiving a certain amount of debt provides relief to people who will need time to get back on their feet.

Will Progressive Democrats Finally Get the Student Debt Relief They've Been Hoping For?

Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren
Gettyimages | Justin Sullivan

Forgiving student loan debt on a large scale is something progressive Democrats like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have been demanding for years. Former Vice-President and Democratic candidate Joe Biden had been skeptical of canceling student loan debt but recently changed his tune to appeal to progressive voters.

In the past, discussions of canceling student loan debt had always been dismissed as radical or too socialist. But now that the country's economy is crumbling under the pressure of the coronavirus crisis, it seems like student loan debt relief will finally get some serious consideration.

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