Student-loan borrowers who miss payments risk having their Social Security benefits garnished.
A group of Democrats reintroduced a bill on Thursday to prevent that from happening.
Student-loan payments are set to resume on October 1.
With student loan payments set to restart, Americans are already scrambling to figure out how they'll adjust their budgets. For those on fixed incomes, it might be an even tighter economic squeeze — and some Democratic lawmakers want to ensure that's not the case.
Reps. Raúl Grijalva and John Larson, alongside Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden, are reintroducing legislation to ensure Social Security benefits aren't garnished to pay back federal debt if borrowers miss payments and go into default. That includes federal student loans.
"It is plain wrong to take away the Social Security benefits seniors earned through a lifeline of work because of the increasing burden of student loan debt," Wyden said in a statement. "It's past time Congress protects seniors and the Social Security benefits they have earned with every paycheck."
Currently, Social Security beneficiaries with delinquent loans can see up to 15% of their monthly benefits garnished to repay that loan. An analysis from the Center for Retirement Research finds that under 5% of current beneficiaries hold student debt. But aging Americans on the path towards Social Security are much more likely than their older counterparts to hold student loan debt, meaning garnishing could become an even larger strain in the near future.
And while a relatively small share of current Social Security beneficiaries hold student loan debt, they're still carrying a heavy debt load: The Center for Retirement Research finds that the average outstanding student loan balance is $30,600 for those 62 years or older. Those Social Security recipients are at risk of seeing around $2,300 in benefits garnished every year if they go into default.
On October 1, millions of federal student-loan borrowers will once again be footing an extra monthly bill. The student-loan payment pause ended in September — interest began accruing again on September 1 — and while the Education Department announced a 12-month "on-ramp" period during which missed payments will not be reported to credit agencies, interest will continue to grow during that time. It does not specify guidance regarding wage or benefits garnishment.
Additionally, recently updated department guidance stated that while the department will not actively report missed payments, it does not have control over credit scoring — which means borrowers could still suffer the financial consequences of a missed payment.
This resumption is weighing on all borrowers, but older borrowers in particular, who have made payments on their student loans for decades. One 58-year-old borrower recently told Insider that she once resorted to selling items on eBay to afford her payments, and she's worried about what will happen once payments resume.
"It's just been very painful because I have the disappointment of not getting the career that I want, and then having so much debt," she said.
The lawmakers hope that protecting Social Security benefits could take at least one element of stress off the backs of older borrowers as they start paying off their student loans once again.
"Seniors paid their entire lives into Social Security and are being punished largely due to the skyrocketing cost of higher education," Grijalva said in a statement. "For many, Social Security benefits are the only source of income they can depend on and it's time we restore that certainty for seniors."
Read the original article on Business Insider