How Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar Are Fighting Student Loan Debt Amid COVID-19 Crisis

How Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar Are Fighting Student Loan Debt Amid COVID-19 Crisis

The legislation is targeted at workers and families troubled by student loans

Published March 25th

Written by BET Staff

The coronavirus pandemic is devastating the country with an expected spike of millions of people losing their jobs. In light of the crisis, Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) are introducing a plan to cancel student loan debt with the Student Debt Emergency Relief Act.


The bill “will provide immediate relief for workers and families crushed by the financial and emotional burden of massive student debt,” Pressley said in a March 23 statement.  “We must prioritize debt cancellation for the 45 million student loan borrowers who are struggling to pay off their debt during this difficult time.”

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Omar added, “Student debt was a crisis before the coronavirus. And it’s an even deeper crisis now… We must not force Americans to choose between putting food on the table and paying off exorbitant student loans.”

According to the press release, the Student Debt Emergency Relief Act would:

  • Cancel at least $30,000 in outstanding student loan debt per borrower,
  • Provide immediate monthly payment relief for federal student loan borrowers by requiring the Department of Education to assume payments, and
  • Shield borrowers from any involuntary collections or garnishments during the COVID-19 public health crisis.

The bill has won praise from advocates of easing the pressure of student loans. 

“Student loan borrowers were in crisis even when our economy was stronger than it is right now—and the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic will send them over the brink,” said Julie Margetta Morgan, Vice President of Research at the  Roosevelt Institute, a progressive public policy think tank. “Rep. Pressley’s bill comes at a critical time. I’m hopeful that this bill is a pathway to a national, bipartisan effort to cancel student loan debt and end the $1.6 trillion student loan burden that is crippling our economy.”

Johns Hopkins University researchers report more than 55,000 people in the United States are infected with the coronavirus and more than 800 have died. Globally 441,000 people have been infected, with a death total of at least 19,784.

For the latest on the coronavirus, contact your local health department and visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Photo Credit: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images; Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

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