Millions of workers are finding themselves in pinch right now, out of a job with bills to pay. The coronavirus has not only disrupted their livelihoods, it has left their futures up in the air. It seems uncertainty is their only certainty.
How will they pay the mortgage or rent? What about if they have student loans? Sure, money from the one-time payment approved by Congress helps, but it’s not going to cover all families’ costs. That’s why two leading Democrats on the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee are calling on Congress to step in and solve the problem.
Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the committee’s ranking member, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, ranking member of the Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions Subcommittee, said in a recent co-authored column that Capitol Hill cannot allow consumers to get crushed by debt.
The CARES Act, passed in late March, gave some assistance by granting some mortgage, rental and student debt relief. But as they note, it didn’t go far enough. That’s why Congress has to stop predatory debt collectors and banks for quickly seizing stimulus checks meant to give a boost to working families.
That happens not only by prohibiting debt collectors from using predatory and intrusive measures to collect a debt, but by pausing their ability to do so.
As the senators wrote, “Americans should have the option to keep paying their debts if they have the means, but they shouldn't be punished if they can't do so. That means no accrued interest, late fees, or other penalties for nonpayment of a debt. And when this crisis does pass, consumers should have additional time to catch up on their payments.”
Lawmakers will be weighing a new stimulus bill in the coming weeks. To sustain hardworking Americans, the federal government should go further and temporarily ban foreclosures, evictions, aggressive collection practices by debt collectors and student loan defaults.
Any legislation should also prevent negative reports to credit agencies or adverse credit scores for delinquencies caused by the crisis. Additionally, railroad unemployment must be released from pay-as-you-go sequestration, which does not apply to any other unemployment programs and only serves to unfairly reduce railroad unemployment benefits.
At a time when some in big business are taking advantage of federal funding meant to help workers and small businesses, elected officials must move quickly and make sure future legislative fixes put people first.