From Your Lobbyist: Congress is in Recess, AYA is not
May 31, 2019
Week of May 27-31
Back in the district: So, what does it mean when Congress is in recess? Does it mean they are back home resting on their laurels? Nope not quite––it means that while no official business is being conducted while Congress is out of session, elected officials are back in their districts during recess talking to their constituents about all of the policies that they are working on back in DC. It is also an opportunity to hear from constituents in their areas about the issues most impacting them and is a great way for AYA members to partake in advocacy at the local level, especially because it is much easier to get facetime with the Member. Advocacy at the local level can include anything from tweeting your member of Congress about legislation you support, calling the local office and asking the front desk to let their boss know of your concerns/bills you support and if you are an advocacy rock-star, even request a meeting in the district office with the staffer and Member to talk about pressing issues you face as a Young American.
Meanwhile on the Hill: Despite Congress being out of session, the work to pass legislation that will help young people still goes on during recess at the staff level. Believe it or not, staff are the most well versed on the specifics of each issue and in fact are often the ones responsible for writing the actual legislation and informing their boss about all of the various pros, cons, and impact on various stakeholders, like AYA. That is why we took this opportunity to lobby Congress on a bipartisan bill we believe, if passed into law, will provide debt relief for thousands of struggling borrowers.
AYA Lobbies to Pass the Employer Participation in Repayment Act (EPRA): Senators John Thune (R-SD) and Mark Warner (D-VA) and Reps. Scott Peters (D-CA) and Rodney Davis (R-IL) introduced the Employer Participation in Repayment Act, which would offer a tax credit to employers who help pay down student debt up to $5,250 per year. Unfortunately, current law only allows an employer to provide tuition assistance to the employee of they are seeking higher education while employed by the company but not to employees who enter the job with pre-existing debt from obtaining an education. Any tuition assistance that employer provides also is taxed as income on the borrower and is not tax deductible for the company. Specifically, the bill would expand the tax exclusion for employer-provided educational assistance to include payments of qualified education loans by an employer to either an employee or a lender. The bill has strong bipartisan support in both chambers with over 25 sponsors in the Senate and over 140 members in the House. The bill is gaining so much traction, CBS did a short segment outlining all of the key provisions in a segment you can watch here. Also, be sure to sign the petition urging your legislators to support it.
Over the past two weeks and during this recess week, AYA met with Sens. Thune (R-SD), Warner (D-VA) and Reps. Peters (D-CA), Davis (R-IL), Spanberger (D-VA), Lee (D-NV), McHenry (R-NC), Wild (D-PA), and Schrier (D-WA) to advocate for the bill’s passage and we will continue meeting with dozens more. Additionally, we worked with other organizations to launch a campaign to collect stories about how employer loan repayments will help struggling borrowers and we’d love to hear from you. Remember, its stories like these that help members of Congress understand this issue is real and that constituents need laws like this to help address the crushing debt burden that is stifling thousands of young Americans. We hope you will take a few minutes to share your stories and thoughts about how an employer contribution of $5,250 per year would impact you.
Lastly, learn more about the student debt issues and bills AYA supports here.