Senate Democrats delayed a key vote on a major stimulus package for the second time Monday.
The GOP-led Senate had moved quickly to pass the third phase of a rescue package which is now estimated at nearly $2 trillion. However Democrats blocked debate twice, arguing the package was too focused on helping corporations rather than individuals.
As it stands, the deal offers 39 weeks of unemployment insurance and expands the pool of eligible workers. It also establishes $350 billion to help small businesses keep workers on the payroll and provides $242 billion for public health and safety net programs.
It also dedicates $250 billion to go directly to Americans. Many adults could receive stimulus checks for as much as $1,200 and children could receive $500.
One of the reported sticking points, though, has been that the deal does not provide relief for students saddled with debt. The plan, as it stood Sunday evening, would excuse loan payments for six months without accruing interest which differs from the proposal set forth by the Democrats.
Cheddar asked Senator Elizabeth Warren her thoughts on the deal, hope for graduating students, and ways to get through this difficult time.
This interview was conducted via email.
Walk our readers through the plan you proposed with Senators Chuck Schumer, [Sherrod Brown] and Patty Murray and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley and what it would mean practically?
Senators Schumer, Murray, [Sherrod] Brown and I put out a plan to have the federal government cancel federal student loan payments for at least the duration of the public health emergency declaration for coronavirus. So, for example, if you currently pay $400 a month on your federal student loans, the government would make that payment for you. And here’s the key part: every federal student loan borrower would get a minimum of $10,000 in loan cancellation at the end of it -- even if the payments the government covered didn’t add up to that much. This would lift millions of student loan borrowers completely out of debt, make sure that tens of millions of Americans have extra money in their pockets to weather the coronavirus crisis, and stimulate economic growth.
The current emergency debt forgiveness proposal is focused on the present crisis. How would a plan like this move forward? If approved now, do you see it remaining in place long-term?
So no matter how long the coronavirus crisis lasts, federal student loan borrowers will get at least a minimum of $10,000 of student debt cancelled. But I will keep fighting to pass my legislation with House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn to cancel up to $50,000 in student loan debt for 43 million Americans and provide an enormous middle class stimulus that would boost economic growth, increase home purchases, fuel a new wave of small business formation, and help close the racial wealth gap.
A lot of your readers know this: before coronavirus pushed our economy over the brink, people crushed by student debt were already in crisis. 45 million Americans owe more than $1.6 trillion in student loan debt -- and that burden keeps on growing. Student debt disproportionately burdens Black and Latinx students. Instead of treating higher education like our public school system -- free and accessible to all Americans -- state and federal government offloaded the cost of higher education to students and their families while cutting taxes for billionaires and giant corporations. And after the big banks crashed our economy in 2008, young people were plunged even deeper into student debt and pushed into a weak job market. They weren’t bailed out but the big banks were.
This is unacceptable and the government has a responsibility to fix this generational wrong. As our economy slips into crisis, our plan to cancel student loan debt during this public health emergency cannot come soon enough. But even after we weather coronavirus, the student loan debt crisis will continue to persist. The president has existing authority to cancel student loan debt on his own. If he doesn’t use it, we need to pass my legislation to cancel student loan debt.
The second coronavirus aid package and the expected third package both include some ideas championed by you and others who ran for the 2020 nomination, including mandatory paid sick leave and sending checks to Americans. Is this a sign that there may be an easing of partisan politics in Washington?
This is a time of crisis and there is no time for partisan politics. I will keep fighting for 100% paid sick leave for all workers and providing quick, permanent relief to people so we can slow the spread of the virus and protect families from falling over the financial cliff.
Coronavirus is exposing massive cracks in the foundation of our economy. Instead of continuing to pile on top of that shaky foundation, we should take this chance to fix the foundation. That means student loan debt cancellation, increasing social security checks, 100% paid leave, and investing in affordable housing. It also means that any cent of taxpayer money that goes to giant corporations must come with real strings attached to ensure the money is truly going to support the workforce -- no more stock buybacks, a $15 minimum wage, worker representatives on corporate boards, and more.
What is your advice to young people who may be worried about mass hiring freezes (circa 2008) that may prevent them from getting good jobs when they (virtually) graduate this spring?
In 2008, young people were thrown under the bus while big banks got bailed out. States dramatically cut funding in public higher education, which meant those increased college costs were passed onto the backs of students and families. And high unemployment meant people who couldn’t find jobs tried to go back to school to help them compete for jobs that just weren’t there, and predatory for-profit colleges were lurking and waiting to take their money and rip them off - and the federal government allowed all of it. Students were pushed deeper into student debt and left to navigate a historically weak job market. The student debt crisis was created by the federal and state government and exacerbated by Wall Street’s greed.
We cannot repeat the mistakes of 2008.
My advice to young people is to keep fighting for a better future. Decisions in Washington have made things so much harder for young people today than they were 30 or 40 years ago, but we have the power to make better decisions and address those problems now.
And they should know: I am fighting with my colleagues in Congress to ensure young people are put first in our response to coronavirus by cancelling student loan debt, increasing unemployment insurance, and providing robust protections on the job. Any taxpayer assistance that goes to giant corporations must come with real strings attached to ensure the money is truly going to support the workforce through this crisis. That means companies need to maintain payroll, empower workers by putting them on corporate boards, provide a $15 minimum wage, not use taxpayer money to buy back their stock or raise CEO pay.
What are you hoping to include in the third federal aid package?
We must include student debt cancellation in the third federal aid package and also ensure that any bailout for big business or specific industries like airlines needs to come with real strings attached. If taxpayers are going to bailout these companies, they ought to know where their money is going and that it’s going to protect workers, not goose up executive pay or enrich shareholders.
What are your thoughts on the reports that Senators Richard Burr and Kelly Loeffler sold millions of dollars worth of stock before the coronavirus outbreak sent markets sinking?
The American people should never have a shadow of a doubt about who their representatives in government work for or represent. Profiting during this crisis is outrageous and Senators Burr and Loeffler need to be investigated for their actions.
This highlights the need for Congress to pass my comprehensive anti-corruption legislation immediately -- which includes completely banning the practice of government officials trading individual stocks while in office. I think Congress should put that provision in the next stimulus.
What are you doing to stay sane right now? Any podcast, book or movie recommendations for Cheddar fans?
I spend a lot of time walking. Sometimes on my own or with Bruce and our dog Bailey. It gives me a chance to clear my head and remember what we’re fighting for every day.