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Biden heads home to hype his student loan relief plan
In a visit to Delaware State University on Friday afternoon, the president will tout the successful launch of his cancelation program and hit Republicans who got PPP loans but criticize his plan.
The White House knows that it has to energize the multiracial, multi-class coalition of voters Democrats will need to turn out to the polls if they expect to hold the House and Senate next month. And this week, President Joe Biden spent the week hitting on the issues he knows people are thinking about as they decide who will control Congress for the next two years.
Abortion rights were the topic du jour on Tuesday when Biden promised that the first law he signed in January would be a bill restoring the federal protections of Roe v. Wade around the 50th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision.
The next day, he announced a three-pronged energy plan to lower gas prices and replenish the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, an emergency stockpile the White House has been releasing millions of barrels of oil from since earlier this year, amid historic inflation.
Thursday was all about infrastructure: President Biden returned to a bridge in Pittsburgh that collapsed in January, just before he was scheduled to visit the city, to tout the $40 billion in dedicated funding over five years to repair some of the 45,000 US bridges that are in poor condition. (The Pittsburgh bridge is currently being rebuilt and upgraded and is expected to be completed and open to traffic by the end of the year.)
And on Friday afternoon, the president will travel to his home state where he served in the US Senate for more than three decades and spends most weekends and visit Delaware State University, a Historically Black College and University, to provide an update on the launch of his student debt relief plan, which officially went live this past Monday.
Amani Wells-Onyioha, a Dallas-based progressive strategist, told Supercreator that these types of events are necessary to counter-message against the Republican Party’s potent and sophisticated media ecosystem.
“I really want him to come out and speak aggressively against Republicans and their BS while also explaining how what he’s doing doing is actually good for voters,” she said. “So I hope to hear that in his speech.”
A White House official said President Biden will speak about the critical role HBCUs play in achieving and sustaining economic well-being for Black people and hype the work his administration has done to strengthen HBCUs across the country.
He is also expected to discuss the steps beyond his student debt relief plan that the White House is taking to fix the student loan system and make education more affordable. While he’s at it, the official said President Biden will call out Republican lawmakers for attacking his efforts to give working people a break despite many of them receiving relief from hundreds of thousands of dollars of their own pandemic relief loans by the federal government.
The president will be joined by DSU President Tony Allen, Democratic Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons of Delaware, Democratic Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester of Delaware, Democratic Gov. John Carney of Delaware, and additional community leaders and students — including a DSU student leader who will introduce Biden and share how the student debt relief plan will impact him, his family and his community.
“I really want him to come out and speak aggressively against Republicans and their BS while also explaining how what he’s doing is actually good for voters.” —Amani Wells-Onyioha
President Biden announced his plan in late August to cancel $10,000 in student loan debt for borrowers earning up to $125,000. Recipients of Pell Grants, which help undergraduate students from low-income households pay for college, are eligible to receive an additional $10,000 in federal loan debt. Biden also extended the pause on student loan payments through the end of the year.
The administration last weekend launched a beta version of the application last weekend to test the application portal where borrowers submit their request for relief; the White House said the portal successfully handled over eight million applications. (A spokesperson for the Education Department referred Supercreator to the president’s speech when asked a series of follow-up questions, including who and how many people were involved in developing the portal and what systems and processes led to a virtually glitch-free launch.)
And the plan has already survived a legal challenge to the Supreme Court, which, in a decision by Justice Amy Coney Barrett issued on Thursday, declined to block the program for now. A federal district court judge rejected a separate lawsuit brought by six Republican-led states on the same day. President Biden said on Monday that his administration’s legal judgment was that the litigation wouldn’t interrupt the application process.
40 million Americans could benefit from debt relief and nearly half could see their student debt completely zeroed out under the president’s plan, according to the White House. Of those 40 million Americans who are eligible for relief, more than 60 percent are Pell Grant recipients who are eligible to receive up to $20,000 in debt cancelation. (Seven in 10 Black borrowers are Pell Grant recipients as are 65 percent of Latino borrowers; more than three in four students at DSU, a Historically Black College and University, received a Pell Grant.)
Borrowers who are out of school and earning less than $75,000 will receive nearly 90 percent of the relief and 40 percent will go to borrowers who didn’t graduate or who earned a certificate, such as welders and dental assistants.
The president isn’t alone in promoting his plan alone either.
Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts will travel to several cities next week to raise awareness about the program and help eligible residents submit their applications.
And Building Back Together, a pro-Biden advocacy group, on Thursday announced a new six-figure ad campaign following the official launch application portal that will run on digital platforms including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, ESPN, Snapchat, and Hulu and in Senate swing states like Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
“Millions of Americans making less than $125,000 a year will be able to get much-needed relief through this simple online form, which takes less than five minutes to fill out,” Danielle Melfi, BBT’s executive director, said. “This is a game changer for so many young Americans, who will now have more money in their pockets to start a family, open a business, or buy a house. This campaign celebrates this win for working families and thanks the president for his commitment to getting it done.”
But for all the relief borrowers with federal student loans stand to receive from Biden’s plan, those with privately held loans are no longer eligible for debt cancelation under the program.
“We’re moving as quickly as possible to provide relief to as many people as possible,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona told reporters on Monday afternoon.
The White House is adamant that electoral politics aren’t behind these events. These policy announcements, officials say, represent a series of fulfilled promises and responses to the economic moment that benefit all Americans not just those who voted for President Biden or will vote for Democrats in the midterms.
During an unannounced stop on Thursday at a famous Pittsburgh sandwich shop, he projected optimism when asked how he felt about the election and whether Democrats will hold the Senate. The president deferred to the diners when asked if his economic plan was resonating with voters. (After the president walked away, one of those diners asked the press: “Why didn’t you ask him about the border?”)
For what it’s worth, Biden himself has said the upcoming election isn’t a referendum on his first two years in office but a choice on what voters want the future of the country to look like and Wells-Onyioha agrees.
“One party is going to make your life materially better in a tangible way. And one party is going to make your life materially worse,” she said. “Try not to get wrapped up in all the crazy stuff that [you] see flying around and just boil it down to the policies: What party has policies that are materially based on improving people’s lives? I think that’s the big piece that people have to focus on.”
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