Coronavirus, Students & Veterans: A Time for Relief

I’ve talked in recent blogs about my efforts to assist our citizens who have felt the lash of the coronavirus – businesses, employees, homeowners, renters, and more. Two groups in particular are also in need of a boost now: our students and our veterans.

College students are generally young, eager for experience, and are preparing to start their career. However, they face obstacles — temporarily, I hope — that we never encountered because of the coronavirus pandemic. College alone can be a boulder. But the pandemic has tipped the boulder downhill. Students are struggling with loans and graduating without the joyful ceremony they earned. Most are facing gloomy employment prospects. And while students confront this dismal job market, they need some help, because the payments and interest on their college loans are not disappearing. The clock keeps ticking on those financial demands. 

That’s why I have introduced several legislative measures that offer them a respite. They include:

Senate No. S2375. Requires Higher Education Student Assistance Authority to suspend accrual of interest on certain New Jersey College loans to assist state students loan program loans in deferment or forbearance. This bill would provide temporary relief from interest and principal payment and loan forbearance in the context of temporary total disability, unemployment or financial hardships.

Senate No. S2466. Requires Higher Education Student Assistance Authority to suspend administrative wage garnishments, certain judicial proceedings, and payments on certain New Jersey College Loans to Assist State Students loans during the COVID-19 state of emergency. Students under this legislation could receive a suspension of principal and interest on some student loans. It would also temporarily halt any wage garnishment for anyone who has become delinquent and would require that any suspended payments are treated as scheduled with regard to credit reporting.

Should we turn away from our vulnerable youth who fulfilled their educational goals yet face those ever-present loan payments? I think not. This is a temporary measure, and I would suggest that offering a breather today will help them in the long run. I envision that our students will eventually enter the job market for the first time as taxpaying citizens, and that will provide a boost to our economy.

Then we have our veterans who face difficult, if different, challenges too. Some might wonder what makes veterans a “special” category. To know

the answer, all you have to do is answer two simple questions: Who has demonstrated greater patriotism than our veterans? Who has shown more willingness than veterans to protect us within our borders and throughout the world where we also live or have security interests? They volunteered to serve our country. They volunteered to serve us. And this is why we need to help them in these precarious times.

My efforts to offer pandemic assistance to our veterans include:

Senate No. S2471. Provides a one-time financial assistance grant and one-time special needs grant to veterans or their surviving spouses for COVID-19 related events. This bill would create a one-time grant
fund, through the Department of Military and for a veteran or surviving spouse who might need immediate financial aid because of the coronavirus. The grant would not exceed $1,000, and the special needs grant would be limited to $2,000. Military service personal and their spouses have already demonstrated extraordinary loyalty to their country. We should offer them temporary special consideration during these exceptional times.

When we went to work, had a pleasant weekend with our families, and helped our children with homework, we knew — even in these tumultuous times — that we were safe. That’s because we knew our military was there to protect us. To some degree, we might even have taken it for granted. Now is the time to do the right thing by offering our veterans a modest helping hand. I believe my legislation demonstrates our concern and respect and offers a temporary, practical solution.

That’s my take, what’s yours?


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