Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., on Thursday reintroduced a bill that would allow survivors of terrorist attacks to receive automatic deferments of their federal student loan payment.
"We should do everything in our power to help those who survive a terrorist attack to get their life back on track," Rubio said in a statement. "While in the aftermath of a terrorist attack, survivors like those of the horrific Pulse nightclub shooting, can be eligible for some relief, existing law does not automatically recognize these types of extraordinary circumstances. Giving survivors some time to regroup by delaying their student loan payments is just commonsense."
Rubio first introduced the legislation in 2016 following the shooting at a gay nightclub, Pulse, in Orlando, Florida, where 49 people were killed and 53 were wounded.
The Guardian reported Rubio said the bill was inspired by his office’s work to help a Pulse survivor secure a temporary delay on his student loan payments.
The Terrorism Survivors Student Loan Deferment Act would:
- Provide a one-year pause for victims so they can either get back on their feet or pursue further deferment or forbearance.
- Direct the U.S. Secretary of Education to establish anti-fraud protections.
- Apply to borrowers of Federal Direct Loans under part D, older part B loans, and Perkins Loans.
- Designate the federal agency in charge of investigating the terrorist attack as responsible for identifying those affected as victims.
Rubio had not responded to The Guardian on how "terrorist attack" is defined in the legislation, and which mass shootings or other violent attacks would count as "terrorist attacks."
Not all reactions to Rubio's move were positive. Some people criticized the bill, saying it was an insulting response to America's student loan crisis.
"Congratulations to Marco Rubio for literally doing the least that he could possibly do to address the student loan crisis," Vox correspondent Ian Millhiser tweeted.
"everything in our power' … to do the bare minimum," tweeted Bruno J. Navarro, described as "a newspaper veteran."
"A more impactful bill would be one that bans assault rifles in order to prevent terrorist attacks from happening in the first place," tweeted David Goldberg, MD, MSCE.
EducationData.org reported more than 40 million Americans have federal student loan debt and owe an average of $39,406, according to The Guardian.
Data by the Center for Strategic and International Studies said the number of victims killed in domestic terrorism attacks in recent years has ranged from 22 to 66 people.
"This is nice, but if Senator Rubio were actually seriously interested in safety and giving relief to survivors, he would back commonsense gun legislation like HR 8," Christopher Zoeller, 19, the Florida state director for March for Our Lives, a youth gun violence prevention group, said in a statement to The Guardian.
"He didn’t do it after Pulse, he didn’t do it after Parkland, and he still hasn’t done it today. We can see right through this gimmick."
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