Representative Tim Ryan Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Provide Student Debt Relief to Essential Workers | Congressman Tim Ryan
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Representative Tim Ryan Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Provide Student Debt Relief to Essential Workers

May 5, 2020
Press Release

Youngstown, OH – Today, Representatives Tim Ryan (D-OH), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and Annie Kuster (D-NH)  introduced legislation to provide $25,000 in either student loan debt relief or education benefits to essential workers and their family members. The Opportunities for Heroes Act recognizes the contributions made by a diverse set of workers, including firefighters and first responders, health care providers, grocery store employees, transportation workers, and more, to help Americans through the COVID-19 health emergency.

“As we continue working to combat COVID-19, we must ensure that those working where the rubber meets the road are properly compensated for the grueling hours spent exposed to this deadly pathogen. We are asking these individuals and their families to sacrifice so much for our nation,” said Rep. Ryan. “That is why I joined my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to introduce this legislation that will provide $25,000 in student loan debt relief or education benefits to those helping to fight this battle on the frontlines. They have our backs at a time when we need them the most, it is time we have theirs.”

“Essential workers risk their health and well-being every day to keep our society functioning during this unprecedented pandemic,” said Rep. Kuster. “Thanks to their courage, Granite Staters are able to buy food for their families, call for help during an emergency, and receive treatment if they are sick. We owe these heroes a debt of gratitude. This legislation will honor their service by allowing essential workers to pay off student debt and have the opportunity – should they want it – to further their education or learn new skills once the crisis has subsided.” 

“Our essential workers put their lives at risk every day to make sure the rest of us are safe and healthy,” said Rep. Fitzpatrick. “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.”

According to Forbes, the median student loan debt in the United States is $17,000. This legislative proposal would eliminate student loan debt for many essential workers, providing them with the financial freedom to buy homes, make investments, and put away money for retirement. By providing resources for education and training, essential workers or their loved ones can learn new skills in our ever-changing world.

“This legislation will give our blue-collar heroes on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response – including those who made the ultimate sacrifice – much-needed support for education costs to improve their families’ futures,” said John Samuelsen, TWU International President. “Annie Kuster’s and Brian Fitzpatrick’s leadership on behalf of all essential workers is a sterling example of how our legislators should be thanking the men and women who are literally putting their lives on the line to keep our country moving during this crisis.” 

“APhA is proud to support the Opportunities For Heroes Act, legislation that allows student debt relief or education credits for essential workers on the frontline of the COVID-19 crisis,”said Thomas E. Menighan, BSPharm, MBA, ScD (Hon), FAPhA, and Executive Vice President and CEO of the American Pharmacists Association. “We are glad that Congresswoman Kuster and Congressman Fitzpatrick recognized pharmacists and all of those who work in pharmacies as eligible participants for this program.”

“The National Grocers Association supports Representative Kuster’s and Representative Fitzpatrick’s proposal that recognizes the extraordinary service of America’s frontline workers,” said Chris Jones, Senior Vice President of Government Relations & Counsel at the National Association of Grocers. “Independent grocers have gone to great lengths to protect their employees and reward them for their tireless efforts and service to their communities. The Opportunities for Heroes Act honors our supermarket superheroes by lessening their student loan burden, and it will help independent grocers recruit recent graduates into rewarding supermarket industry careers”    

The Opportunities for Heroes Act is supported by the American Health Care Association, International Association of Fire Fighters, National Air Traffic Controllers Association, Transportation Workers Union, American Pharmacists Association, National Grocers Association, and NH Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.

In addition to Representatives Kuster and Fitzpatrick, the Opportunities for Heroes Act is cosponsored by Stephen F. Lynch (MA-08), Joyce Beatty (OH-03), Chellie Pingree (ME-01), Madeleine Dean (PA-04), Kathleen Rice (NY-04), David Cicilline (RI-01), Val B. Demings (FL-10), Tim Ryan (OH-13), Chrissy Houlahan (PA-06), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Derek Kilmer (WA-06), Terri Sewell (AL-07), Chris Pappas (NH-01), Peter Welch (VT-ALL), Grace Meng (NY-06), Juan Vargas (CA-51), Grace F. Napolitano (CA-32), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), and Alan Lowenthal (CA-47). The full text of this legislation is available here.