Northampton City Council asks President Joe Biden to cancel student debt in unanimous vote

In a unanimous vote, Northampton City Council passed a resolution calling on President Joe Biden to forgive student loan debt by decree.

the Western Massachusetts Area Federation of Labora coalition of more than 60 public and private sector unions from across western Massachusetts passed the resolution in January, calling on local leaders to support the initiative.

“It’s an issue that affects 44 million Americans, and canceling student debt is hugely popular nationally. Especially as we continue to navigate the myriad challenges posed by the pandemic, canceling student debt will relieve and invigorate the household budgets of millions of working people across the country,” WMALF executive director Lydia Wood said in a statement.

The resolution was co-sponsored by councilors Rachel Maiore and Jamila Gore and passed at a meeting on February 17.

Maiore told MassLive that the people of Northampton have made it clear they support canceling student debt.

“One of the main issues here is affordability,” she said. “My work on the council has focused on finding ways to make Northampton more affordable and inclusive. Student loan debt is so pervasive and all-consuming. This is a major obstacle to paying rent or settling somewhere and being able to find housing.

Maiore saw the vote as an opportunity to take a stand on the national issue which is a local concern, especially for people who want to stay in the city. She also said it’s easier for state-level officials to advocate for her because they know they have local support.

Massachusetts leaders, whose senses. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, have continually advocated for Biden to forgive up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt for Americans.

While Biden has suspended loan payments through May 1 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, experts say the president is unlikely to make large-scale cancellations. CNN reported that Education Secretary Miguel Cardona did not mention blanket student debt cancellation when setting department priorities in 2022.

Instead, Biden has targeted groups he believes are more needy, including people with disabilities and people who attended predatory colleges, according to the outlet. It also expanded the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, an option that forgives student debt for public sector borrowers who make payments for ten years.

Maiore said student loans are about fairness.

“Northampton is very concerned about fairness,” she said. “Two-thirds of student loan holders are women. And the racial wealth gap has really exploded over the last 20 years and it has a lot to do with student loans.

She encouraged people not to be afraid of the idea, saying there are benefits to repaying loans for both those in debt and those who are not.

“Personally, I don’t think education should lead to lifelong debt,” Maiore said, adding that there needs to be more conversations about accessibility to higher education in addition to loan clearing.

“It would boost our economies, including our local economy,” she continued. “There are very negative health outcomes that come from the burden of care loans like that. And so I think we would be a healthier community and our economy would be in better shape. This will benefit everyone. »

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