Senate Dems propose suspending student loan payments amid coronavirus outbreak

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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, joined by top Democratic senators, on Thursday rolled out a plan that would cancel student loan payments for the duration of the coronavirus national emergency and pay down some outstanding debt.

Schumer, D-N.Y., joined by Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, unveiled their emergency student loan payment and relief plan, after floating measures to curb the economic impact of COVID-19.

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The plan would provide relief to federal student loan borrowers through an “immediate cancellation” of monthly student loan payments during the national emergency, and would “pay down a minimum of $10K for all federal student loan borrowers.”

The plan would require Congress to authorize the Department of Education to make monthly student loan payments on behalf of borrowers, and would “guarantee” the minimum of $10,000 payoff for all borrowers.

“The coronavirus outbreak brought with it crushing economic uncertainty, and students and borrowers need targeted, quick relief from payment burdens,” Schumer said in a statement Thursday. “Our new proposal would immediately cancel monthly payments, and give students and borrowers a minimum $10K student loan payoff. We must act now to help alleviate the growing financial strain on students and families across the country.”

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Warren, whose presidential campaign focused on cancellation of student loan debt, added that the measure would “fix the mistake that still holds back a generation of people and dragged down our economy.”

The suspension of payments would be considered a new policy, separate from the deferment and forbearance options that currently exist for borrowers. The plan would also make all payments made by the Department of Education “tax-free” for borrowers.

The proposal comes after President Trump, last week, announced that he had waived all interest on federal student loans during the coronavirus outbreak rocking the nation.

Meanwhile, Trump on Wednesday signed the second coronavirus relief bill into law that provides paid sick leave, unemployment help and free testing to Americans.

The legislation provides 14 days of paid sick days to workers affected by the coronavirus, ensures free testing to everyone, including the uninsured, and expands food aid and boosts unemployment dollars to states.

Next up, the Senate and White House have been moving quickly to draft a third round of stimulus legislation that could infuse about $1 trillion into the U.S. economy that has been rattled by school shutdowns, business closures and steep declines in the travel and tourism industry as many Americans are stuck home.

Schumer, Warren, Murray and Brown have included the student loan measure as part of Senate Democrats’ “Phase 3” stimulus proposal.

Also expected to be included in the third stimulus package are the "checks" that the Trump and the White House have vowed Americans would soon receive. It is unclear, at this point, who would be eligible to receive the relief, and how much cash eligible individuals could expect.

The House and Senate already passed a bipartisan $8.3 billion package to prop up the health-care system to prepare for the influx of sick Americans. The second response bill that was signed into law Wednesday aims to bring relief to workers who lost their jobs and families at home for illnesses, quarantines or caring for kids whose schools have shuttered.

As of Thursday morning, the U.S. currently had more than 9,400 confirmed cases of coronavirus in all 50 states, including Washington, D.C. The U.S., so far, has seen 150 COVID-19-related deaths.

The Trump administration’s task force predicted Tuesday that the number of cases in the U.S. could peak in about 45 days.

Fox News' Marisa Schultz and The Associated Press contributed to this report.