Florida Senator Marco Rubio, moved by the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando this past July, reintroduced legislation earlier this month that would give student loan borrowers with federal loans a year-long break on repayment if they were a victim of a terrorist attack. Subsidized student loans would also stop accruing interest during the year-long freeze.
When first introducing the legislation in September, Rubio explained he came up with the bill after his office helped a student loan borrower who survived the Pulse Nightclub shooting and was struggling to pay back his student loans. That terrorist attack left 49 dead and 53 wounded. While the bill would only help a small amount of student loan borrowers, it is part of a new trend among politicians to introduce legislation that doesn’t have high costs associated with it but can demonstrate the lawmaker is trying to do something to help citizens. At last count, the U.S. collectively owes more than $1.3 trillion in student debt.
Rubio isn’t the first lawmaker to introduce a bill to protect a small portion of student loan borrowers. After Hurricane Katrina, a program was put in place to give borrowers a three-month forbearance in which they didn’t have to make payments on their loans. After the September 11th terrorist attack, Congress announced a loan discharge program for certain federal student loan borrowers where victims, first responders, and their family members didn’t have to pay back their student loan debt.
Under Rubio’s bill, dubbed the Terrorism Survivors Student Loan Deferment Act, the survivors of a terrorist attack would get automatic deferment of their student loans. The deferment, which would be one year in length, would not count against the three-year maximum deferment allowed for borrowers of federal loans under current rules.
The bill would give the Department of Education the authority to automatically defer student loans of anyone who is a victim of a terrorist attack, which would in theory eliminate a lot of red tape.
“Unfortunately, existing law does not automatically recognize an extraordinary situation like this, where giving survivors some time to regroup and delay their payments should be commonsense,” Rubio said when originally introducing the bill.
Author: Andrew Rombach
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