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Coronavirus Package a ‘Life Raft, Not a Rescue Boat’ for Nation’s Young People

Moments ago, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a bill designed to help address the national health and economic crises facing the country due to the spread of the coronavirus. The bill will now be sent to President Donald Trump’s desk to be signed or vetoed.

In response to the bill’s passage, Jesse Barba, Senior Director of External Affairs for Young Invincibles, issued the following statement:

“Today’s coronavirus bill is a life raft — but not a rescue boat — for the millions of young people who are still grappling with how they will make ends meet as they navigate challenges like unemployment, student loan debt, and paying their daily expenses. By freezing involuntary student loan payments, ensuring low-income students have their basic needs met, preserving Pell Grants, and expanding unemployment insurance, Congress has taken the first few steps that young people need to maintain stability and security during these unprecedented times.

That being said, this legislation is far from comprehensive, and it’s clear that Congress must do more in future legislation if they want to truly support young people. Young people are still demanding meaningful relief from the student debt crisis, more access to affordable housing and food, and expanded opportunities to get quality, affordable health coverage. While what was passed today will help, it doesn’t do nearly enough to put money back in young people’s pockets and ensure they can keep their life on track.

As the nation grapples with the dual threats of a public health crisis and an economic recession, young people are looking to Congress to build on the passage of this bill. The last recession stuck young people with stagnating wages, skyrocketing tuition costs, and the most student loan debt in history. In fact, because of the Great Recession of 2009, young adults lost about $22,000 in wages they should have earned over the following ten years. Without Congress’ leadership, we’ll be making many of the same mistakes we saw just a decade ago.

So while we celebrate the passage of this coronavirus package, we cannot say that the job is done. This package begins addressing the devastation being felt by the nation’s young people, but today’s young people need more if they’re going to get out of this crisis with the tools to build stable, financially secure lives. We stand prepared to work with any member of Congress ready to advocate for what we know that young people need.”

Last week Young Invincibles outlined a set of principles and policy proposals aimed at helping young people during these ongoing crises. YI has identified many policies that are still missing from the coronavirus package that should be included in any future stimulus legislation, including:

  • Expanding SNAP benefits and eligibility: As the crisis prolongs, students’ finances will be drastically affected and many students will likely become newly eligible for SNAP. This is a critical moment to ensure that all eligible college students are immediately connected to the critical federal nutrition programs. 
  • Cancelling debt: The current coronavirus package fails to provide meaningful relief from the student debt crisis that was already weighing down the financial prospects for young people. Suspending payments for six months doesn’t reduce the amount borrowers ultimately have to pay. Meanwhile, todays’ debt crisis  was largely caused by state disinvestment in higher education following the Great Recession a decade ago.
  • Expanding health coverage: The bill fails to expand health coverage at a time that is most crucial. This can be done by creating a federal special enrollment period (SEP) to extend coverage to all those currently uninsured. 
  • Preventing surprise medical billing: The bill fails to protect consumers from surprise medical billing. Consumers should be protected at the very least from surprise bills that arise because of COVID treatment, if not from all balanced billing practices.
  • Expanding ACA subsidies: The current bill fails to expand ACA marketplace subsidies that would lower the cost of coverage for current enrollees and those losing job-based coverage who newly enroll immediately. Expanding these ACA subsidies would lower consumer costs and make it easier for those who need treatment to access it.