Two important steps we can take to help ease the economic burden on working people — and that I will take when I am President.
The news this morning of another enormous number of unemployment claims — on top of the ten million that have already been filed — is devastating. These numbers represent catastrophic losses to our economy, but most importantly, they represent the loss of livelihood for millions of people across this country struggling to pay the rent, put food on the table, and keep the electricity on.
These aren’t statistics this morning — these are people. They are fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles, sons, daughters, and grandparents who have lost their jobs.
The economic crisis brought on by this virus is both accelerating and deepening. These unemployment numbers today are another flashing warning sign that our country and our people will endure enormous economic pain. It is our responsibility to move quickly and effectively to help them.
Congress has moved to help with the CARES Act, but they must do more. In addition to funds to keep workers on payroll, the next recovery package will need to provide significant funds to states, to make sure that educators and health care workers and first responders can keep getting paid. It will have to provide hazard pay to frontline workers putting themselves at risk. It will have to provide health care coverage for millions who lose their insurance, by allowing them to stay on their health care plans and covering the cost, as well as reopening enrollment for Obamacare and creating the public option I’ve been calling for. It will have to extend unemployment benefits, and provide further direct cash relief, and take care of the people left out of the CARES Act, through an immediate cancellation of a minimum of $10,000 of student debt per person, as proposed by Senator Warren, and Social Security boosts. And so much more.
And we must — must — make sure not only that every American can be tested for coronavirus free of cost, but also make sure every American can be treated for coronavirus free of cost. Period.
And that’s just immediate relief. Then comes recovery. Recovery will require long term changes to build a more inclusive and more resilient middle class, and a greener and more resilient economy. We have to think big — as big as the challenges we face. As we start to lay the groundwork for recovery, we have to build back better for the future.
So, as the next step in building on the progressive vision for the country that I have laid out across the course of my campaign, today I’m announcing my intention to fight for two new policies that I believe will not only help people right now when they may need the help most, but will also help people find more secure footing in the long term once we have emerged from this crisis. The first is lowering the Medicare eligibility age to 60, and the second is forgiving student debt for low-income and middle class people who have attended public colleges and universities.
And to be clear — these are priorities now, but they will be my program when I am President.
Lowering the Medicare Eligibility Age to 60
I have directed my team to develop a plan to lower the Medicare eligibility age to 60.
Under this concept, Americans would have access, if they choose, to Medicare when they turn 60, instead of when they turn 65. Medicare benefits would be provided to them as they are to current Medicare recipients. This would make Medicare available to a set of Americans who work hard and retire before they turn 65, or who would prefer to leave their employer plans, the public option, or other plans they access through the Affordable Care Act before they retire. It reflects the reality that, even after the current crisis ends, older Americans are likely to find it difficult to secure jobs.
Of course, those who prefer to remain on their employer plans would be permitted to do so, and employers would have to comply with non-discrimination laws and would be prohibited from excluding older workers from coverage or otherwise try to push them out of their plans. And the Biden Medicare-like public option — as well as other subsidized private plans available to individuals through the Affordable Care Act — would remain available.
Any new Federal cost associated with this option would be financed out of general revenues to protect the Medicare Trust Fund.
Forgiving student debt for low-income and middle class individuals who have attended public colleges and universities
I’ve also directed my team to develop a plan to forgive federal student debt relating to the cost of tuition currently held by low-income and middle-class people for undergraduate public colleges and universities, as well as private Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and private, underfunded Minority-Serving Institution (MSIs).
The concept I’m announcing today will align my student debt relief proposal with my forward-looking college tuition proposal. Under this plan, I propose to forgive all undergraduate tuition-related federal student debt from two- and four-year public colleges and universities for debt-holders earning up to $125,000, with appropriate phase-outs to avoid a cliff. The federal government would pay the monthly payment in lieu of the borrower until the forgivable portion of the loan was paid off. This benefit would also apply to individuals holding federal student loans for tuition from private HBCUs and MSIs.
This proposal would be in addition to my existing student debt proposals:
- Immediately cancel a minimum of $10,000 of student debt per person, as proposed by Senator Warren in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.
- Those earning less than $25,000 per year will not have to make monthly payments and will accrue no interest
- Those earning more than $25,000 per year will pay no more than 5% of discretionary income toward payments
- After 20 years, the remainder of federal student loans will be forgiven without any tax burden
- Those who participate in public service will be eligible for additional federal loan forgiveness, including $10,000 per year of forgiveness for up to five years.
I would finance this new student debt proposal by repealing the high-income “excess business losses” tax cut in the CARES Act. That tax cut overwhelmingly benefits the richest Americans and is unnecessary for addressing the current COVID-19 economic relief efforts.
I will be releasing more detail on both of these proposals in the future But I believe that as we are being plunged into what is likely to be one of the most volatile and difficult economic times in this country’s recent history, we can take these critical steps to help make it easier for working people to make ends meet. Senator Sanders and his supporters can take pride in their work in laying the groundwork for these ideas, and I’m proud to adopt them as part of my campaign at this critical moment in responding to the coronavirus crisis.
In our nation’s 244 years, we have never weathered a crisis that we did not emerge from stronger. This one will be no different. Americans will come together and take care of each other — we are already seeing it every day. Doctors, nurses and hospital workers putting their own safety aside to care for others. Neighbors looking out for neighbors who need extra help. We can do anything we put our minds to, even in the most difficult times — and includes rebuilding for a better future.