From Your Lobbyist: HEALS Act, Deferment, and House Funding
July 31, 2020
HEALS Act, Provides no Healing: After intraparty drama and infighting within the Republican party, Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) introduced the HEALS Act, which does anything but pave the road for Americans to heal from the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite proposing $30 billion for direct aid for higher education, it falls immensely short of what is needed to help college students, young families, and the most vulnerable Americans. It provides no additional Pell funding, no extension on the loan deferments, and not a single dollar of loan forgiveness. Founder of AYA Ben Brown explains: “The HEALS Act is yet another slap in the face for young Americans and shows just how out of touch the Senate Republicans are with what the federal government could be doing to meaningfully take care of its citizens amidst a worldwide pandemic, and is instead using their power to further their own selfish priorities. For these reasons, I urge all of our AYA members to strongly oppose this bill and join us in our advocacy to ensure we get what we deserve in the next COVID-19 relief package.”
Trump Floats Extending Loan Deferment: Since the HEALS Act did not include an extension on the loan deferment relief that the CARES Act provided, which expires October 2020, President Trump at Thursday’s press event mentioned possibly extending the deferment period. As reported by Politico, it is not clear “was referring to executive action he would take or whether he would ask Congress to extend the CARES Act” student debt relief. The HEROES Act, on the other hand, passed by the House a few months ago, would extend deferment and keep interest rates at 0 for at least another year while the HEALS Act incorporates Senate HELP Chairman Alexander’s (R-TN) proposal to simply reform the payment options from 9 to 2. Republicans and Democrats have both publicly expressed the need to address loan relief in some form, but right now are seemingly far apart on exactly what to do on the issue. With Trump in the mix, it is anybody’s guess about what the final deal will shake out to include, but AYA is continuing to advocate for loan deferment at a minimum and outright cancellation of student debt.
House Passes $1.3 Trillion FY21 Funding Bill: Today, the Democratic House of Representatives passed a package of several bills that would boost funding for the Pentagon and the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Homeland Security, Justice, Transportation, and Energy. If passed into law, the bill would increase funding for education by 1.7% over last year. The Department of Education would receive $73.5 billion in discretionary appropriations, which is an increase of $716 million above the FY20 enacted level and $6.9 billion above the President’s budget request. Higher Education programs fared very well under the House bill, with $26 billion allocated for direct student aid. We covered the details of the bill in our last FYL Report here. The bill was passed along party lines and has zero chance of being adopted by the Republican Senate, who have not introduced their FY21 education funding bill, which means that the appropriations process will probably be stalled and a continuing resolution to extend funding at last year’s levels will be needed to keep the government open before funding runs out on September 30th.
Keep taking action! Let Congress know what we need as Young Americans in the next COVID-19 relief package. I will recap all of this with you next week in a video discussing the progress of the ongoing negotiations.