More than 235 nonprofit and community organizations on Wednesday sent a letter to President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, urging them to "use executive authority to cancel federal student debt on day one of their administration."
"Student loan borrowers are drowning in debt caused by a system that has been inequitable and broken for decades."
—Persis Yu, National Consumer Law Center
"Biden can—and should—cancel student debt on day one of his presidency," said Ashley Harrington, federal advocacy director and senior counsel at the Center for Responsible Lending, in a joint statement.
"Short-term payment suspension alone is not enough to help struggling borrowers who are unemployed, already in default, or in serious delinquency," Harrington added. "Borrowers need real relief, and they need it on day one."
As Common Dreams has reported, pressure is mounting on Biden to immediately cancel student loan debt upon taking office in January, a move that is within his power and that progressives say is a sure-fire way to improve working people's lives amid a crushing economic crisis.
Although Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) have called on Biden to vanquish $50,000 of federal student loan debt per borrower with the stroke of a pen as opposed to waiting for legislation, the president-elect has so far proposed something far weaker, much to the chagrin of the left.
According to NPR, Biden wants to the government to "pay off up to $10,000 in private, nonfederal student loans for 'economically distressed' borrowers."
Lee Carter, a democratic socialist representative in the Virginia state legislature, tweeted that Biden's means-tested approach to student loan debt forgiveness "shows how the right wing of the Dems water[s] down good policy goals to where almost nobody is affected, but they can still claim victory."
The conversation around student debt forgiveness shows how the right wing of the Dems water down good policy goals to where almost nobody is affected, but they can still claim victory.— Lee J. Carter (@carterforva) November 19, 2020
First it was all student debt, then $50k, then $10k, now it's up to $10k for only some people.
The recent letter—led by Americans for Financial Reform, the Center for Responsible Lending, Demos, the National Consumer Law Center, and Student Borrower Protection Center—stressed that student loan debt cancellation will "provide a much-needed economic stimulus," improve health outcomes, and "reduce the racial wealth gap."
"We cannot wait a second longer for debt relief when we know the president has the authority to cancel student debt on day one," said Natalia Abrams, the executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group Student Debt Crisis.
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Persis Yu, director of the National Consumer Law Center's Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project, explained that "student loan borrowers are drowning in debt caused by a system that has been inequitable and broken for decades."
"At a moment when student borrowers are facing deep economic hardship, the impact of student debt cancellation will be far-reaching."
—Amalia Chamorro, UnidosUS
"Abusive debt collection practices take critical funds, like the Earned Income Tax Credit, from borrowers' safety nets and extrajudicially garnish borrowers' wages," Yu continued.
"Student debt cancellation is urgently needed now," Yu added, "as American families struggle to stay financially afloat through the economic and public health crisis caused by Covid-19."
Abrams said, that "with so much at stake, this is the most urgent opportunity to help the country heal from the health crisis, heal from economic harm, and heal from the history of racial disparities."
Harrington pointed out that "even before the Covid-19 pandemic, student debt exacerbated existing systemic inequities and racial disparities."
"Just as with the Great Recession, communities of color are disproportionately affected by the current crisis," she said. "They also shoulder a disproportionate amount of the $1.6 trillion student debt burden that is draining our economy."
Biden "can, and must, use the remedy of student debt cancellation to address these pressing issues," Abrams argued.
Amalia Chamorro, associate director of Education at UnidosUS, noted that "at a moment when student borrowers are facing deep economic hardship, the impact of student debt cancellation will be far-reaching."
Signatories to the letter include: American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, the Education Trust, Hispanic Federation, NAACP, National Urban League, UnidosUS, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), National Women’s Law Center, SEIU, UE (United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America), the Coalition on Human Needs, Children's Defense Fund, the American Psychological Association, Council on Social Work Education, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, Greenpeace, Sunrise Movement, Minority Veterans of America, Veterans Education Success, the United States Student Association, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, and the National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.