Things That Matter

Student Loan Debt Relief Is Trending But What Can We Expect From An Incoming Biden Administration?

We still have over two months until President-Elect Joe Biden takes office on January 20, 2021. However, that hasn’t prevented people and pundits from discussing what needs to change (and how quickly) once he’s sworn in.

Obviously, the new president will have a lot on his plate. Thanks to an unprecedented four years under a Trump Administration which has largely gutted several government agencies and enacted dangerous policies for Americans, Biden will have to act quickly and decisively.

One possible agenda item for Biden’s first days in office involves the student loan debt crisis. Currently, our collective student loan debt stands at $1.7 trillion (the second largest debt behind mortgages), so it’s no surprise that the Biden team are looking to address the crisis.

Biden signals he’s open to student loan debt relief but is it enough?

During a Monday press conference, President-Elect Biden confirmed his support for forgiving some student debt “immediately.”

He repeated his support for a provision passed as part of the HEROES Act, which the Democratic-controlled House updated on Oct. 1. The provision calls for the federal government to pay off up to $10,000 in private, nonfederal student loans for “economically distressed” borrowers. Biden specifically highlighted “people … having to make choices between paying their student loan and paying the rent,” and said the debt relief “should be done immediately.”

Student debt forgiveness was a major campaign plank of some of his more progressive rivals for the Democratic nomination, but it remains controversial even among some Democrats. 

However, many point to it as a plan he can execute quickly and on his own. Attorneys at a Harvard legal clinic argue that the power to cancel federal student loan debt rests with the president and his or her education secretary, since it’s the Education Department that actually originates these loans. That means it can be done regardless of who controls the Senate without passing any new laws.

According to many experts, canceling student debt could have a major positive impact on the economy.

Credit: Tom Williams / Getty Images

Although it sounds like forgiving student load debt would be an easy move, some are asking should it be done? Most economists agree that canceling student debt will boost the economy, freeing up younger people to start businesses, buy homes and even start families. 

In fact, Elizabeth Warren, in her presidential campaign proposal, cited arguments that debt forgiveness would reduce the racial wealth gap, reverse rural brain drain and allow more people to complete their educations.

Activist groups such as the Debt Collective go further, arguing that student debt is wrong in principle. “We must return education to the status of a public good,” the organization says on its website.

Progressives like AOC and ‘The Squad’ are pressuring Biden to expand his plan.

The Squad (the nickname given to Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan) have strongly supported wiping $30,000 off student loan debts, which they outlined in their Student Debt Emergency Relief Act in March.

The bill aims to provide immediate monthly payment relief to those who have taken out federal student loans and crucially prevent those with student debts from having to make involuntary payments during the coronavirus pandemic.

And in response to many who are against the idea, AOC had the perfect clap back. In a tweet on Tuesday, she dismissed arguments against canceling hefty debts accrued in further education.

“‘Things were bad for me, so they should stay bad for everyone else’ is not a good argument against debt cancellation – student, medical, or otherwise. #CancelStudentDebt,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley further contributed to the debate, adding: “Student debt cancelation will ensure an equitable economic recovery from COVID-19, jumpstart our economy & close the racial wealth gap. One more thing,” she said.

But why are so many others so upset about canceling student debt?

Many opposed to canceling student debt claim that it would create resentment in those who spent a long time paying off their own college debts. The argument goes that they had to sacrifice and suffer and it wouldn’t be fair that current and future college grads might not have to sacrifice and suffer in the same way.

Other critics of debt forgiveness state that a bailout will simply redistribute the debt to other Americans, and will largely benefit those who can afford to go to college, disproportionately helping a well-off segment of society at the expense of the taxpayer. 

Something those people should keep in mind, though, is that their experience of massive student loan debt is not one shared by every generation of students. From 1988 to 2018, the cost of college increased by 213%. Wages, unsurprisingly, did not increase by 213% in that period — in fact, they’ve pretty much remained stagnant since the 1970s.

Perhaps most importantly, canceling student debt doesn’t negatively affect those who’ve already paid off their student loans. Insisting that other people pay off their loans in full, no matter how much of a hardship, is demanding suffering for the sake of suffering. 

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AOC And Chuck Schumer Announce Funeral Benefits For Covid-19 Deaths

Things That Matter

AOC And Chuck Schumer Announce Funeral Benefits For Covid-19 Deaths

JOHANNES EISELE / AFP via Getty Images

More than 27 million people in the U.S. have tested positive for Covid-19 and more than 468,000 have died. The avoidable death toll has caused emotional and financial pain to hundreds of thousands of families across the country. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Chuck Schumer are teaming up to get people benefits to cover unexpected funeral costs.

Rep. AOC and Sen. Chuck Schumer are highlighting funeral benefits to reimburse the families of loved ones who died from Covid-19.

The U.S. government passed a Covid economic relief bill in December to offer some support to the struggling economy. The bill gave some relief to Americans, including $600 relief checks. The previous administration made a show of wanting $2,000 checks before allowing the $600 to go through. The Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan is fulfilling that promise by getting $1,400 checks to Americans to deliver the rest of that $2,000.

Another allocation in the package is $2 billion to reimburse people for some of the funeral costs for Covid victims. According to Bankrate, the average cost of a funeral is around $7,640. This is a tough amount of money for people to come up with without an economic crisis brought on by a pandemic.

Americans can apply for up to $7,000 in reimbursement to cover funeral costs because of Covid.

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez understands the financial burden a sudden death in the family can cause. It is something that more than 400,000 families in the U.S. are dealing with as Covid continues to spread and kill thousands of people in the U.S. daily.

“I lost my Dad when I was about 18 years old, and the funeral expenses haunted and followed my family along with many other families in a similar position for years,” Rep. Ocasio-Cortez said at a news conference announcing the funds. “When you suddenly lose a loved one, you’re talking about an expense of four or five, seven, 10 thousand dollars.”

The benefits are retroactive to the beginning of the pandemic.

AOC is quick to respond on Twitter and confirmed that the funeral benefits are indeed retroactive to January 2020. This offers all families who lost a loved one last year to be eligible for a reimbursement of those funeral costs.

The death toll of Covid is expected to continue to climb as vaccines are rolling out and the race against variants is ongoing. Some new strains of the virus spread faster and there is still work to be done to see if they impact the effectiveness of current vaccines.

The money to cover the reimbursements has been allocated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The two New York politicians teamed up to make this possible with $260 million of those funds going to New Yorkers.

Communities of color are still facing a disproportionate share of the Covid burden.

According to a study by the American Heart Association, access to a hospital plays a big role in why communities of color are disproportionately impacted by Covid. One of the most glaring reasons for the devastation in non-white communities is that hospitals are predominately in white communities.

“Our findings suggest that in order to address disparities in the burden of COVID-19 among vulnerable patient groups, we must focus on structural reasons for the higher rates of viral transmission and hospitalizations for Black and Hispanic patients,” Dr. Fatima Rodriguez, lead author of the study, which was funded by the AHA, said in a statement.

READ: Maluma Invited Fans To A Meet And Greet But Now It’s Being Called A Covid-19 Super Spreader Event

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Rep. AOC Opens Up About Being A Sexual Assault Survivor And Capitol Riots In Powerful IG Live

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Rep. AOC Opens Up About Being A Sexual Assault Survivor And Capitol Riots In Powerful IG Live

aoc / Instagram

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of the most recognizable faces of Congress, used an Instagram Live video to share her experience in the Capitol riot. The congresswoman from New York also shared with the audience that she is a victim of sexual assault.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez finally broke her silence about her experience during the Capitol riot.

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez was in the Capitol on Jan. 6 when a group of angry far-right extremists stormed the building. The Congress was in the process of certifying the election results to certify President Joe Biden’s victory. In the chaos, people died and members of Congress were rushed to secure locations to keep everyone safe.

There has been a lot of chatter that some Republican members of Congress are responsible for the attack. Some members of Congress have accused colleagues of giving rioters tours the day before the attack and two senators are facing calls to resign or expulsion over their connection. Sen. Josh Hawley and Sen. Ted Cruz are facing sustained nad bipartisan calls to resign after appearing to encourage the insurrection on Jan. 6.

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez openly shared that she is a survivor of sexual assault. The moment comes at the beginning of the video as he breaks down the way some of her colleagues have talked about the riot.

“They’re trying to tell us to forget about what happened. They’re trying to tell us that it wasn’t a big deal. They’re trying to tell us to move on without an accountability, without any truth telling, or without actually confronting the extreme damage, physical harm, loss of life, and trauma that was inflicted on, not just me as a person, not just other people as individuals, but on all of us as a collective and on many other people,” Rep. Ocasio-Cortez says in the IG Live. “We cannot move on without accountability. We cannot heal without accountability. So, all of these people who want to tell us to move on are doing so at their own convenience.”

AOC highlighted how these tactics and this rhetoric is similar to that of an abuser. She calls out those using this rhetoric as hiding from what they did for their own convenience and how it something she has heard before.

“I’m a survivor of sexual assault and I haven’t told many people that in my life,” Rep. Ocasio-Cortez says as her voice cracks and she tears up. “When we go through trauma, trauma compounds on each other and so whether you have a neglectful parent or whether you have someone who was verbally abuse towards you. Whether you are a survivor of abuse, whether you experience any sort of trauma in your life, small to large, these episodes can compound on one another.”

During that moment, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez hid in a colleagues office and feared for her life. In a previous Instagram Live video, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez spoke about how she had a moment when she feared for her life but could not say anything due to security issues. Her latest IG Live is open and free to discuss what happened and it is a terrifying ordeal.

At first, AOC took shelter in her office and had to hide in the bathroom as the attackers broke into her office.

“I just hear these yells of ‘WHERE IS SHE? WHERE IS SHE?’” Rep. Ocasio-Cortez recalls. “This was the moment where I thought everything was over. I thought I was going to die.”

“I felt that if this was the journey my life was taking, I felt that things were going to be okay — and that I had fulfilled my purpose,” Rep. AOC said through tears.

According to AOC, her legislative director Geraldo Bonilla-Chavez, told her to come out of the bathroom and that there was a Capitol police officer there who secured her office. Yet, something seemed off so the two fled to get to another secure location. That’s when they ended up in Rep. Katie Porter’s office.

This is when AOC changed into sneakers and gym clothes so she could run and blend if she had to. She continues to say that a real split between Democrats and Republicans has led to an environment of fear and that on the day of the insurrection, she never felt sully safe or secured.

READ: Rep. AOC Calls Out Sen. Ted Cruz After He Tried To Join Her Fight Against Robinhood

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