As Congress eyes the subsequent section of coronavirus aid, some lawmakers need to assist pay frontline employees’ student loans or greater training prices.
“Grocery clerks didn’t take that job at relatively modest wages thinking they were saving the world,” mentioned Rep. Ann Kuster (D-NH) in an interview with Yahoo Finance.
A brand new invoice launched this week would give important employees $25,000 in student debt aid— or for school tuition or prices of a workforce improvement or persevering with training program. Kuster and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) launched the Opportunities for Heroes Act on Tuesday. The invoice has a number of different Democratic cosponsors, however Fitzpatrick is the one Republican on board to date.
“Our essential workers put their lives at risk every day to make sure the rest of us are safe and healthy,” mentioned Fitzpatrick in a press release. “They deserve all of the help we can provide them. By providing the option to help pay their student loans or continue their education, we can give them one less thing to worry about.”
If the invoice have been to grow to be legislation, the Secretary of Labor would set up a brand new fee to find out which employees are deemed important and eligible for the $25,000. Some of the positions the invoice particularly mentions embody healthcare employees, first responders, pharmacy employees, grocery retailer employees and postal employees.
“It’s hard to envision literally every type of essential worker,” mentioned Kuster. “We want it to be inclusive. We want to make sure that people are recognized even if the role they played is more obscure.”
Essential employees who labored a minimum of 480 hours in a 120-day interval in the course of the COVID-19 disaster could be eligible. Workers who couldn’t attain 480 hours resulting from a case of COVID-19 would nonetheless be eligible.
The invoice would enable employees to switch the cash to a member of the family. For instance, if an important employee didn’t have student loans or a want to go to varsity, they might use the cash to pay for his or her little one’s training.
“It’s not just the workers that are at risk, but these frontline essential workers can bring the virus home—the contagion home — and put their families in jeopardy as well,” mentioned Kuster. “We’re recognizing the contribution of the families.”
Kuster mentioned she’s working to incorporate the invoice, or a minimum of some type of greater training advantages, within the subsequent stimulus bundle. The CARES Act granted some student loan aid, together with a six-month suspension of some student loan funds — however specialists say it’s not almost sufficient.
Right now there are just a few proposals floating round DC. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) launched a invoice this week to forgive student loan debt for healthcare employees. Congresswomen Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Ilhan Omar have a plan to cancel $30,000 in debt per borrower. While transferring any debt forgiveness laws by means of the Republican-controlled Senate might be an uphill battle, Kuster believes her Republican co-sponsor is a promising signal.
“I think there’ll be a debate about the parameters of the program,” mentioned Kuster. “This would be part of the economic stimulus package… to make sure that people are going back to school or getting back to work, that they’re stimulating the economy.”
An aide for the House Committee on Labor and Education instructed Yahoo Finance it’s contemplating a variety of proposals for added aid for student debtors.
Kuster instructed Yahoo Finance she helps student loan aid with or with no pandemic, however the outbreak has introduced a possibility to construct help.
“People recognize that student loan debt is one of the things that’s holding this next generation back from their full economic potential in their full contribution to our society. As we come out of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic downturn, we’re going to be looking for opportunities to grow our economy,” mentioned Kuster. “There’s broad bipartisan support for increasing the skills, increasing the capacity and removing the barriers to success.”
Democratic lawmakers are additionally pushing for $13 an hour hazard pay for frontline employees. Sen. Mitt Romney has proposed an additional $12 an hour by means of the pandemic.
Jessica Smith is a reporter for Yahoo Finance based mostly in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter at @JessicaASmith8.