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Silverman Reintroduces Bill to Ease Student Loan Debt

WASHINGTON INFORMER — The District has a number of people who are cool, smart and well-connected — and deeply in student debt.

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By James Wright

The District has a number of people who are cool, smart and well-connected — and deeply in student debt.

But if D.C. Council member Elissa Silverman has her way, these productive residents will be able to keep this financial obligation under control.

On Feb. 5, Silverman (I-At Large) introduced the Student Loan Authority Establishment Act of 2019 that would create an independent agency to issue new low-interest rate student loans and refinance existing student loan debt for residents and students attending D.C. colleges and universities.

The legislation allows for student loans, parental loans and graduate student loans that would be covered by a robust income-based repayment system, a public service loan forgiveness program and deferred payment after graduation.

Silverman’s legislation would let the student loan authority operate similarly to the D.C. Housing Finance Agency by issuing tax-exempt bonds to fund both the origination and refinancing of the loans that would not affect the District’s ability to borrow funds for other issues or create a new liability.

The council member’s bill comes at a time when nationally students owe more than $1.5 trillion in educational loans, according to a number of studies on the subject. In the District, the average debt for the Class of 2017, for example, is $30,000 and nearly 10 percent of all city borrowers owe more than $100,000.

Given these staggering statistics, Silverman knew she needed to make sure that student loan borrowers have more options available to them.

“Lowering student debt not only makes higher education more affordable, but it also helps our residents save and work toward other life goals, such as renting or buying a home,” she said.

With the exception of the University of the District of Columbia, all of the city’s colleges and universities are private and thereby much more expensive than public institutions.

Silverman introduced the bill in October but Council Period 22 ended on Dec. 31 without the bill being considered. Nevertheless, fellow Council members Trayon White (D-Ward 8), Anita Bonds (D-At Large), David Grosso (I-At Large), Robert White (D-At Large), Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7), Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1) signed onto the bill in October and continue to support it.

Silverman’s bill is currently under council review.

Marcus Goodwin, president of the DC Young Democrats who ran unsuccessfully for an at-large seat on the council last year, said he fully supports Silverman’s bill.

“Student debt hurts the ability of people to buy property, make investments, further their education and start a family,” said Goodwin, who works as a real estate and economic development professional and volunteers at the Adams Morgan Youth Leadership Academy, where he teaches financial literacy and career preparedness to high schoolers. “Those who want to advance in their life are hindered by student debt and it may stifle their ambition to move forward in their career.”

Goodwin noted that it is mainly student loan debt acquired during undergraduate years that adversely affects people. He said many young people don’t make enough money to pay back the debt when they began to work after undergraduate school.

In addition, he said the District “is an expensive place to live,” and that serves as a barrier to paying back those loans.

Jeremiah Lowery, a well-known progressive activist in the District, agreed with Goodwin on Silverman’s bill.

“It’s a good start,” said Lowery, who also ran for an at-large seat on the council in 2018, said. “The end goal is debt-free college. I think Elissa Silverman’s bill will be good for residents across the city but especially those who live east of the [Anacostia] River. If the bill passes and is signed into law, there needs to be extensive outreach, particularly east of the River, to let residents know what this means for them.”

Lowery said many minority students take out different loans without knowing fully the payback requirements because they are focused on getting a degree.

“They lose track of the loans they are supposed to pay back and things get out of hand,” he said. “I think this bill will prevent that from happening.”

This article originally appeared in the Washington Informer

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Business

City Must Pay Contractors, Businesses, Non-Profits Promptly

By restoring the Prompt Payment Ordinance, local organizations working for Oaklanders will be compensated in a timely manner and can do more work for Oakland as a result.

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Sheng Thao

I have introduced legislation to restore the City of Oakland’s Prompt Payment Ordinance and it will be heard at 1:30 p.m. by the City Council on October 19 because local contractors and local businesses need to be compensated in a timely manner for work they do on behalf of the City.

It’s unacceptable that the city is using the COVID-19 pandemic to delay payment to these local non-profit organizations.  By restoring the Prompt Payment Ordinance, local organizations working for Oaklanders will be compensated in a timely manner and can do more work for Oakland as a result.

In March 2020, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, then-Interim City Administrator, Steven Falk issued an Emergency Order suspending parts of the City’s codes to give the City the flexibility to navigate the uncertain times.  Few would have guessed then that the world would still be navigating the COVID-19 Pandemic nearly 18 months later. One of the ordinances suspended by the Emergency Order was the Prompt Payment Ordinance.

Oakland’s Prompt Payment Ordinance requires the City to compensate local businesses and contractors executing City grants or contracts within 20 days of receiving an invoice.  This allows local organizations providing services on behalf of the City of Oakland to be compensated in a timely manner and builds trust between these organizations and the city.  Local contractors and businesses provide a diverse set of services to the City, covering areas ranging from trash removal and paving to public safety.

Almost 18 months since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Oakland’s Prompt Payment Ordinance is still suspended.  Even as City staff have adjusted to working remotely and the City has adjusted to operating during the pandemic, there is no requirement that the City compensate its contractors or local businesses in a timely manner.

Oaklanders can comment at the meeting by joining the Zoom meeting via this link https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88527652491 or calling 1-669-900-6833 and using the Meeting ID 885 2765 2491 and raising their hand during the public comment period at the beginning of the Council meeting.

 

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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Black History

Ruth Carol Taylor: Breaking the Sky-High Ceiling

During a 1997 interview with Jet magazine, Taylor described herself as a “blacktivist,” and admitted that she had “no long-term career aspirations as a flight attendant but only wanted to break the color barrier.”

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Ruth Carol Taylor. Fair Use Photo

It was the 1950s. The United States had been dubbed “the world’s strongest military power.” The economy was booming. Jobs were overflowing; housing was plentiful. But for Black Americans, racism was on fire, the Civil Rights Movement was gaining speed, and the best-paying jobs were for whites.

The airlines were no exception.

None of this stopped Ruth Carol Taylor (1931–), a journalist and nurse from New York City, from submitting her application to Trans World Airlines (TWA) for the position of airline stewardess (known today as flight attendants).

Her application was rejected almost immediately because she “did not meet the airline’s physical standards.”

Stewardesses, at the time, were selected because of their physical attractiveness and height/weight conformity. But the decision made to reject Taylor’s application was racially motivated. She filed a discrimination complaint with the New York State Commission and approached other airlines offering the position.

Mohawk Airlines, a regional passenger airline operating in the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S., mainly in New York and Pennsylvania, began advertising open positions for stewardesses. The company also announced the open recruitment of Black women. More than 800 applied, and Taylor became one of the new hires. This made her the first African-American airline flight attendant in the US. It was 1958.

When asked about being the only Black hire, Taylor said that she believes it was “due to nearly white-passing skin and features.” She completed her training in early 1959 and was ready to take on her first flight.

After a few months, TWA, threatened by the lawsuit, brought its first Black stewardess onboard: Margaret Grant.

A short time later though, Taylor was grounded. She was let go from Mohawk on another discriminatory practice: she met and married Rex Legall and was forced to resign from her position. A ban against stewardesses being married or pregnant was not uncommon at that time.

Due to the decisive court case of Diaz vs. Pan Am., the no-marriage rule was eliminated throughout the US airline industry by the 1980s.

Taylor and Legall traveled and lived abroad for a few years. After their divorce, Taylor, in 1977, returned to New York City and nursing.

Best known for breaking the color barrier in the airline industry, Taylor was also an activist for minority and women’s rights. In 1963, she covered the March on Washington as a journalist for a British magazine, Flamingo.

By 1977, she began to focus more on her work as an activist. In 1982, she cofounded the Institute for Inter-Racial Harmony Inc. There she developed testing designed to measure racial bias in educational, commercial, and social settings.

During a 1997 interview with Jet magazine, Taylor described herself as a “blacktivist,” and admitted that she had “no long-term career aspirations as a flight attendant but only wanted to break the color barrier.”

Today she lives in Brooklyn.

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Business

A’s Owner John Fisher Port Proposal No Good for Oakland

Billionaire John Fisher, owner of the A’s, has things to do before he can take over Oakland’s public port property to build malls and housing for the rich. 

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Howard Terminal on Port of Oakland Map

OPINION

Billionaire John Fisher, owner of the A’s, has things to do before he can take over Oakland’s public port property to build malls and housing for the rich. 

It is such a bad idea and the costs to the public are so ridiculous that logically it shouldn’t happen.  But this right-wing, Trump-supporting Republican has a boatload of money and a few corporation-oriented politicians to help him push it through.  

So, Oaklanders need to be active, or he might get it. Here are two of the things we need to act on: 

  1. Fisher won’t spend his own money.  So, he wants Alameda County to give up spending on things like the COVID-19 pandemic, so we residents can pay for his project with taxpayer money.  The vote on this will come up to the Board of Supervisors on October 26.  If you’d prefer that the County fund health care, housing and other resident necessities, ask them to vote “No.” Call your supervisor at 510-208-4949 and/or attend the meeting.
  2. The Oakland City Council will make the ultimate decision about Fisher’s project and there are a zillion reasons they should say “No.”  Among them: a) Fisher’s project requires that thousands of people run across the tracks of a busy railroad, which killed a number of people even before there were big crowds needing to get to their condos or a stadium.   b) And  Fisher’s project would wreck Oakland’s Port.  The “Seaport Compatibility Measures” necessary to keep the Port alive would cost hundreds of millions of dollars which would not be needed if it were not for Fisher’s project.  So, Fisher, not taxpayers, should pay for them. c)  And then there are all the other ways it will hurt the waterfront, the environment, and Port workers.

You can get contact information to reach your Council member here – https://www.oaklandca.gov/officials

Personally, any public official who votes for Fisher’s project will never get my vote again.   Call me hard-headed, but the harm to  Oakland as a working-class, multi-racial city, the harm to the ILWU (the union of Port workers, perhaps the most progressive union in America)  and the opposition of the people of East Oakland are enough to make my hard head think that’s what solidarity requires.

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