The Congressional Future Caucus Responds to COVID-19 with Post-partisan Legislation that Makes a Real Difference
April 22, 2020
As Congressional responses to the coronavirus crisis continue to dominate headlines and pundits continue to speculate on the make-up of forthcoming aid, Congressional Future Caucus members are leading efforts to fill in gaps and make corrections in several areas. Caucus members Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY-21) and Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO-2) have both introduced bipartisan, solutions-oriented legislation to improve and advance national COVID-19 responses, countering unproductive national political narratives and building on a generational move towards post-partisanship.
As Congressional responses to the coronavirus crisis continue to dominate headlines and pundits continue to speculate on the make-up of forthcoming aid, Congressional Future Caucus members are leading efforts to fill in gaps and make corrections in several areas. Caucus members Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY-21) and Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO-2) have both introduced post-partisan, solutions-oriented legislation to improve and advance national COVID-19 responses, countering unproductive national political narratives and building on a generational move towards post-partisanship.
On April 22, 2020, Rep. Stefanik introduced the bipartisan Equity in Student Loan Relief Act, H.R. 6597, with cosponsors from both sides of the aisle and from all over the country. This legislation would extend the student loan relief included in the CARES Act, the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package passed in late March, to Americans who took out student loans under the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program, which was discontinued in 2010. According to Rep. Stefanik, roughly 7.2 million Americans still hold FFEL loans and are therefore currently ineligible to receive the benefits for borrowers stipulated in the CARES Act.
The CARES Act included a provision whereby principal and interest payments on certain federally-held student loans were automatically suspended. These suspended payments also count toward student loan forgiveness programs, as long as various other qualifications are met. According to an article by NPR, FFEL loans were left ineligible for payment forgiveness because a number of them are now held by commercial banks instead of by the federal government. Only loans directly held by the federal government were eligible for relief under the initial CARES Act relief package. The bipartisan bill introduced by Rep. Stefanik would change that in order to ensure that all people who took out their loans directly from the federal government at the time would qualify for payment suspension under the CARES Act. Per Stefanik’s legislation, the Department of Education would take over the payment of interest for those whose loans are held by private entities. The Department of Education would also enter into an agreement with individuals who currently hold FFEL loans to suspend payment obligations and involuntary collections through September 30, 2020, the date laid out in the CARES Act.
In a statement, Stefanik maintained,
“All students who have federal student loans should have their monthly payments suspended, no matter which type of loan they have or when they borrowed the money. Our bipartisan bill is a major step towards achieving parity”.
Congresswoman Lori Trahan (D-MA-3), a member of the House Education and Labor Committee alongside Congresswoman Stefanik, said that,
“This urgent bill will provide immediate relief for families simply trying to make ends meet by extending them the same protections currently guaranteed to most federal student loan borrowers. This bipartisan proposal is common sense and should be taken up without delay.”
On another front of the virus response, Congressional Future Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO-2) is spearheading efforts to close gaps in federal backstopping for small and medium sized communities. H.R. 6467, the Coronavirus Community Relief Act, which currently has nearly 150 cosponsors in the House including members of both parties and 13 fellow members of the Future Caucus, would provide for $250 billion in additional aid to local governments that serve populations of 500,000 or less. These funds are to be used only to cover costs brought about by the COVID-19 public health emergency.
The CARES Act established a limit on state and local aid funds to include only localities with populations of over 500,000 people, according to a press release by Congressman Neguse. This cap means that a number of important municipalities and metropolitan areas across the country were not able to receive any direct help from the federal government to respond to the pandemic, including places like Minneapolis, Minnesota; Boulder, Colorado; and Tampa, Florida.
Rep. Neguse said in a statement that these midsize and smaller cities need the funds for a number of purposes, including
“deploying timely public service announcements to keep Americans informed, rapidly activating emergency operations, readying employees for telework to keep services running, and more.”
Support for Rep. Neguse’s bill has also picked up in the Senate, led by Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM). Heinrich said in a statement that,
“Small and rural communities across the nation either will face, or have already faced, enormous economic burdens and costs in an effort to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is crucial that we provide the same direct emergency assurances to smaller towns, counties, and cities and grant them the same stability that we are providing to our larger metropolitan areas”.
The bipartisan legislation introduced by Reps. Neguse and Stefanik are demonstrations of Congress’ ability to self-correct and are indicative of ongoing efforts to provide the support needed by citizens and local governments around the country. By prioritizing solutions, these Congressional Future Caucus members have been able to build politically and geographically diverse coalitions quickly, advancing the COVID-19 response where most needed and avoiding pointless partisan pitfalls. Continued support for actions such as these, and a continued commitment to solutions and national unity over partisanship, will ultimately lessen the impact of this crisis and set the stage for new, Millennial leadership in national lawmaking.
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