In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Senate health and education committee Chairman Lamar Alexander on Monday introduced legislation to allow student loan borrowers with no income to continue to defer their monthly payment, give parents more choices of schools for their children and to increase availability of child care for working parents.
Senator Alexander introduced other sections of the “Safely Back to Work and Back to School Act” that would improve stockpiles of pandemic supplies and sustain onshore manufacturing of tests, treatments and vaccines.
“If you are one of 43 million Americans with a student debt, you can continue to defer your monthly payment after Oct. 1 if you have no income,” Senator Alexander said. “When you do begin earning income your monthly payment will never be more than 10 percent of your income after deducting the necessities of life such as rent or mortgage and food.”
These four proposals combined with proposals from four other Senate committee chairmen constitute “the Health; Economic Assistance; Liability Protection; and Schools Act (HEALS Act),” which Senator Alexander said implements Senate Republican priorities of “children, jobs and health care.”
“Since March, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress has passed four major bills providing nearly $3 trillion to provide relief to families, workers and businesses, and to contain the disease, but there is more work to be done,” Senator Alexander concluded. “Now is the time for Democrats and Republicans to work together to get a result for the American people.”
The Senate Health and Education Committee Bill:
Protects Student Loan Borrowers — Zero income-Zero Payment: Allows 43 million student loan borrowers to have a $0 monthly payment if they have no income; and when a borrower does begin earning income, their monthly payment will never be more than 10 percent of their income after deducting for the necessities of life, such as the cost of housing and food.
Protects K-12 Students — Provides scholarships to students to have the opportunity to return to the private school they attended before the pandemic, and gives other students a new opportunity to attend private school.
Supports and Expands Access to Child Care — Provides critical support to child care providers so they can continue to serve working parents and provide safe environments for the two-thirds of children in the U.S. under age 6 who have parents in the workforce.
Strengthens Federal Stockpile — Helps the federal government partner with companies to increase reserve amounts of medical products and supplies needed during a public health emergency, such as masks and ventilators.
Improves Diagnostic Testing — Helps speed the development and distribution of diagnostic tests to address emerging infectious diseases.
Modernizes Disease Surveillance — Improves the ability to collect data in order to better detect, identify, and track emerging infectious diseases to inform public health preparedness and response.
Read Chairman Alexander’s floor remarks here.
View one-pagers on the Student Loans, School Choice, and Child Care provisions of the HEALS Act.
View the Section by Section of the Senate health and education committee provisions of the HEALS Act.