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President Biden Announces New Student-Loan Forgiveness Plan To Help Millions

President Biden’s new student-loan plan will help relieve millions of Americans from debt. 

According to an article from The Wall Street Journal, the President’s new plan will eliminate up to $10,000 in federal-loan debt from those whose annual incomes are under $125,000 or for couples who earn less than $250,000 combined. 

“In keeping with my campaign promise, my Administration is announcing a plan to give working and middle class families breathing room as they prepare to resume federal student loan payments in January 2023,” President Biden tweeted.

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Some of the borrowers are also going to be eligible for total forgiveness up to $20,000 if they additionally received Pell Grants. These are a form of federal financial aid that would be awarded to students who live in low-income households.

The plan is expected to benefit the majority of the more than 43 million people in the U.S. who hold a total of $1.6 trillion in student-loan debt” 

President Biden also announced that he will be extending the pandemic-era student-loan pause payments and interests throughout the end of the year. The Trump administration first gave Americans the option to suspend their loans and soon after, Congress made it automatic. 

The current pause was set to end on Aug. 31, but with the President’s recent plan, it was the closest the administration has come to hitting the end of the freeze extension.

This pause has been instated since March 2020 and has been continuously extended since. 

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York believes that this continuous pause helped Americans save nearly $200 billion in payments. 

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People who are eligible for this new plan don’t need to take action right away in order to receive the debt relief. 

“It’s a very complicated process and it’s going to take months to effectuate,” said Scott Buchanan, director of Student Loan Servicing Alliance. “Don’t do anything until you see something happen to your account.” 

The new plan was in fact narrower than what he initially proposed when he was campaigning during the 2020 election. 

“He’ll get a lot of credit for following through on something that he was committed to,” said Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster.

Many people who work in the public service were also welcomed to some relief when there were temporary changes made to the U.S. Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Due to the changes, it helped more than 113,000 people receive student debt relief and have a total of $6.8 billion in forgiveness. 

Young College Student

Biden Administration To Erase Student Debt For 40,000 Borrowers

In an attempt to make good on the promises of federal student debt relief, the Biden Administration — announced by the Department of Education on Tuesday — has made changes to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF) that would see 40,000 borrowers become eligible to have their debt immediately discharged.

7,000 borrowers with older loans will also see forgiveness under income-driven repayment (IDR) plans. On top of that, 3.6 million more will move closer towards forgiveness by receiving at least three years of additional credit.

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The department, which cited that this move addresses “historic failures” in regards to IDR plans, also aims to take more care of accurately tracking monthly payments for borrowers on IDR, which are typically smaller amounts.

“Student loans were never meant to be a life sentence, but it’s certainly felt that way for borrowers locked out of debt relief they’re eligible for,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement. “These actions once again demonstrate the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to delivering meaningful debt relief and ensuring federal student loan programs are administered fairly and effectively.”

The Biden administration had previously extended the payment pause on student loans  — which was set to end on May 1 — through the end of August. Interest on loans has been paused since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic back in March of 2020.

Since President Joe Biden took office in January 2021, around 725,000 of the 43 million federal student debt borrowers have seen their debt discharged, which totals to over $17 billion in relief. Still, total outstanding student loan debt remains at $1.7 trillion.

IDR plans have had a troubled past. An NPR investigation revealed that the plans — which promise loan forgiveness after 20 to 25 years and manageable monthly payments as low as $0 — had been “badly mismanaged” by the department and loan servicers.

Department documents dating back to 2016 acquired by NPR showed that despite 4.4 million borrowers having repaid for over 20 years, only 32 had their loans canceled under IDR. Meanwhile, some servicers weren’t tracking payments, and didn’t know when borrowers qualified for cancellation unless they were asked by the borrowers to do an intensive records review.

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The department, along with Federal Student Aid (FSA) noted it will address “forbearance steering” by conducting a one-time account adjustment in order to count certain long-term forbearances, which the department considers to be more than 12 consecutive months or 36 cumulative months. Borrowers will then be given credits based on their length of forbearance.

Throughout his election campaign, Biden promised to forgive each borrower $10,000 in loans, which would end up totaling to about $400 billion. However, that claim has yet to flourish, as Biden stated he didn’t have the executive authority to cancel up to $50,000 debt per borrower. White House press secretary Jen Psaki later said the President would be “happy to sign” legislation canceling student debt if Congress passes it.

Along with pausing student debt (and expanding the coverage of the pause) Biden has worked to give relief by targeting smaller groups. One such case includes those who were defrauded by their school, which ended up totaling $2 billion in loan cancellation.

Travel Ban

Omicron Variant Forces New Travel Restrictions and Protocols Across Globe

In what has seemingly become an ever-expected piece saying, the travel industry will once again be heading towards new restrictions – this time due to the rise of the Omicron variant.

In order to curb the spread of the variant, the Biden Administration initiated travel bans on Nov. 29 against South Africa — where the strain was first identified back in late November — Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, and Eswatini. The State Department also issued a “do not travel” advisory for citizens.

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This past Monday, new requirements were introduced for inbound travelers, which includes U.S. citizens. Air travelers are required to present airlines with proof of a negative COVID test that was taken one day before departure. This is lowered from the previous three days.

Meanwhile, tests that are accepted still include antigen and nucleic acid amplification tests (NAAT). Travelers are not required to take an additional COVID test upon landing. So far, general tests have been able to detect Omicron, and should “remain adequate.” Currently, 19 states have detected an Omicron variant, as have 50 countries.

The United Kingdom has instituted similar testing protocol, along with banning travel to multiple African countries – Nigeria just became the 11th country added to their red list.

Like every other governmental action during the pandemic, the South Africa ban has had controversial aspects. The New Yorker pointed out that before the restrictions went into effect, strains were also detected in the U.K., Germany, and the Czech Republic – yet,  travelers are still currently free to enter and leave those countries.

Meanwhile, South Africans have expressed displeasure. “I think the government’s decision is wicked, unfair and a heavy financial burden,” a Nigerian man living in the U.K. told the BBC in regards to the government’s restrictions that force a paid-quarantine for residents returning to the country.

Despite numerous countries’ efforts, it might not be any good in the long run. Speaking with NPR, Yale Institute of Global Health director Saad Omer said these bans have “very little utility.” “From what we know about the epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2 and the epidemiology of this variant, the horse has probably left the barn,” Omer said, while also agreeing with the belief that variant-identified countries should not be exempted from restrictions.

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Thankfully, it doesn’t seem like you may have to worry about your own holiday travel plans being flushed down the drain just yet. Appearing on a CNN Global Town Hall, Dr. Anthony Fauci explained that “if you have a vaccinated situation, your family is vaccinated, enjoy the holidays indoors with your family.”

While Fauci did say that traveling always opens up the risk of infection, travelers can help to further protect themselves by continuing to wear masks and getting booster shots that are becoming available to more and more people.

It seems travelers share these sentiments to an extent. According to MarketWatch, a survey found that 87% of travelers are still planning on following through with their Christmas trips, while 10% have cancelled their trips and 3% ended up changing their destination. 79% of the survey respondents expressed concern about Omicron, however.

President Biden Reflects On ‘Deadlist Year On Reacord For Transgender Americans’ During Day Of Remembrance 

President Joe Biden released a statement for Transgender Day Of Remembrance, where he paid tribute to “those we lose in the deadliest year on record for transgender Americans.” 

“We also remember the countless other transgender people, disproportionately Black and brown transgender women and girls, who face brutal violence, discrimination, and harassment.” 

The White House marked the day on Friday with a vigil in the Diplomatic Room of the White House, hosted by second gentleman Doug Emhoff. 

Transgender Day of Remembrance is meant to be the final day of Transgender Awareness Week, and it takes the time to memorialize victims of anti-transgender violence all across the country. The Human Rights Campaign recently declared 2021 as the deadliest year on record for transgender and nonbinary people, with at least 45 transgender or gender-nonconforming people on record being killed in hate-filled acts of violence. 

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 “Our hearts are with all who knew and loved the 45 people who have been killed this year. The march to end this epidemic of violence continues.” White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a tweet.

Within his statement, Biden called on the Senate to pass the Equality Act, which amends the 1964 Civil Rights Act to protect people from being discriminated against based on sexual orientation and gender identity. 

“The Equality Act will ensure that all people are able to live free from fear and discrimination, a right all Americans should have.” 

The Equality Act was passed in the House back in March, but has since been stalled by the Senate. “In spite of our progress strengthening civil rights for LGBTQI+ Americans, too many transgender people still live in fear and face systemic barriers to freedom and equality,” Biden wrote.

According to news reports, “the administration also released a report Saturday from the first Interagency Working Group on Safety, Opportunity, and Inclusion for Transgender and Gender Diverse Individuals, which is made up of representatives from the US Agency for International Development, the Departments of State, Justice, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Education, Homeland Security, Labor, Interior and Veterans Affairs, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the US Interagency Council on Homelessness.”

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The report also emphasized that the “violence against transgender Americans is the direct result of systemic anti-transgender stigma and hate, pervasive discrimination, disproportionate criminalization, and marginalization and exclusion of gender minorities, with violence against transgender communities heightened today due to a historic spike in legislation targeting transgender people for discriminatory and unjust treatment.”

Biden’s statement is the latest in a series of administrative motions that aim to support the LGBTQ+ community. Biden has since revered former president Trump’s ban on transgender Americans in the military, reinstated a special envoy for LGBTQ+ rights, and issued the first presidential proclamation to mark Transgender Day Of Visibility as an official day in March. 

Beyond the heightened violence that transgender Americans have faced this year, from a legislative standpoint their rights were also being consistently threatened. In fact, 2021 also marked a record year for anti-transgender legislation; 100 bills have been introduced among state legislators across 33 states all of which aimed at restricting the rights of transgender individuals. 

A majority of the bills target transgender youth, to which Bien responded:

“To ensure that our government protects the civil rights of transgender Americans, I charged my team with coordinating across the federal government to address the epidemic of violence and advance equality for transgender people,” Biden stated. 

“I continue to call on state leaders and lawmakers to combat the disturbing proliferation of discriminatory state legislation targeting transgender people, especially transgender children. Today, we remember. Tomorrow — and every day — we must continue to act.”

Democrats Expected To Pass Biden’s $1.75 Trillion Climate And Social Spending Package This Week 

House Democrats are quickly trying to pass President Biden’s $1.75 trillion social and climate spending package this week. The package would give democrats a head start at making infrastructural changes before the Thanksgiving holiday.

The package has been extensively debated all summer and fall, mainly over the contents of the package and wear specific money will be allocated to. 

Democrats currently feel like they’re on the verge of a huge milestone in the House, where the passage of this package would be seen as a huge victory for the party. House moderate holdouts have promised to support the bill when it’s brought to the floor this week. 

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This Monday, Biden will be signing the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill as well, so the administration in general is gearing up for pushback, and to get moving on the actual plans within the bills. 

Despite the possibility of new drama in the Senate, we’re confident Congress can send the package to Biden’s desk by the end of the year. I think we’ll get it passed before Christmas,” one senior Democrat, G.K. Butterfield (N.C.), former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Biden and the democratic party in general have been under fire for a recent slew of economic changes, such as general inflation, labor shortages, and a supply chain “clog” that’s preventing our retail markets from thriving. These issues in combination with the Covid-19 pandemic have led to a lot of disagreements among our leaders. 

“Democrats need to reassess their strategy. We need to have legislation that actually, forcefully delivers for working people,”  said progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). 

Moderate Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) is supportive of several key elements of the Biden package, such as “tackling climate change, extending the child tax credit and lowering prescription drug prices, but Democrats have failed to explain how the legislation will help struggling American families.”   

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“People are busy, they have jobs, they have lives, they have worries, they have kids, they have joys. If someone turns on the news and [hears] ‘We really need to make these major investments in human infrastructure,’ and they say, ‘There they go again. What the heck are those Democrats doing?’” 

“Now, if we’re saying, ‘I want to invest in the next generation of America’s children, and I want to do it by ensuring every kid goes to pre-K’ — like, that’s a different discussion, right?”  Spanberger stated. 

“I think this bill will make it over the finish line, but ultimately, this bill may not be identical to what we pass in the House when it does make it over the finish line.” 

Government officials also emphasized that the cost of not passing this bill will be much greater for lower to middle class Americans, who will be forced to deal with inflated costs for their everyday needs. 

“If we don’t act on Build Back Better … we won’t be able to cut child care costs. … We won’t be able to make preschool free for many families starting in 2022, saving many families $8,600. We won’t be able to get ahead of skyrocketing housing costs … and we won’t be able to save Americans thousands of dollars by negotiating prescription drug prices,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday. 

“So our view is this makes a strong case for moving forward with this agenda. Because what we’re really talking about is the cost to American families.”

U.S. Plans To Reinstate “Remain In Mexico” Policy Next Month

The Biden Administration announced its plans to reinstate a Trump administration policy, the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), in mid-November that will force migrants on the U.S. southern border to remain in Mexico while they await a hearing.

Texas U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk had ordered the Biden administration to reinstate the MPP in mid-August after Attorney Generals in Texas and Missouri sued the cancellation. The Supreme Court then denied a request from Biden asking to stay the lower court order of the required reinstatement.

The reimplementation of the policy known as “Remain in Mexico” hinges on whether the Mexican government will accept the migrants that are expelled from the U.S.

ABC News notes that Mexico “generally wants cases to conclude within six months and ensure that asylum-seekers have timely and accurate information about hearing dates and times and better access to legal counsel.” Mexico also wants exemptions for migrants who are termed as being “more vulnerable.”

The Mexican Ministry of Foreign Relations also discussed its desires for “addressing the structural causes of migration,” with the U.S., while also emphasizing possible transfer programs for migrants that would provide opportunities.

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Priorly, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had ended the policy in June. In a memo of termination released, DHS secretary Alejandro Mayorkas gave details regarding his review, saying he determined MPP to “not adequately or sustainably enhance border management in such a way as to justify the program’s extensive operational burdens.”

Additionally, Mayorkas cited other factors such as COVID-19 challenges that caused millions of dollars to be wasted and migrant cases to be postponed indefinitely, forced additional responsibilities from the MPP that drove the Department away from its mission sets, and questions that arose about the program’s “design and operation.”

Despite the DHS appealing a court injunction that required the Department to work in good faith in reinstalling the MPP, they stated they have done just that while also saying they remain “committed to building a safe, orderly, and humane immigration system that upholds our laws and values.”

According to CBS News, officials told reporters that the Biden administration is making several changes to the MPP that will better reflect the administration’s goals and treatment towards migrants, while also addressing concerns raised by the Mexican government.

One change the administration may make to the MPP is better and more frequent representation for those who are being held in the program, as the American Immigration Council explains.

“Representation rates for the 70,000 people subjected to MPP were exceedingly low. Data suggests that just 7.5% of individuals subject to MPP ever managed to hire a lawyer, though the true representation rate may be even lower because that number includes individuals who were initially placed into MPP and then were later taken out of the program and allowed to enter the United States.”

The administration will also be building tent courts for migrants at Laredo and Brownsville, Texas — both which are located on the border — that will have a monthly cost of $24.6 million to operate, per ABC News, while also ensuring capacity in the system.

Despite having disregarded the MPP before while also ensuring not to repeat Trump’s approach towards immigration, the Biden administration continues to enforce the controversial “Title 42” policy, which allows the U.S. to expel migrants without giving them the chance to apply for asylum. This was recently enforced in September, when thousands of Haitian refugees flooded the Texas border.

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A Pew Research Center report stated that the U.S. Border Patrol reported up to 200,000 encounters of migrants along the U.S.-Mexican border in July, which was the highest monthly total since March of 2000, when over 220,000 were reported.

Those numbers are up by over 183,000 from April 2020, which saw just 16,182 migrants. Before the pandemic, total migrant encounters were slowly on the decline at the start of May 2019, which was considered to be a “breaking point.”

In July, 53% of migrant encounters resulted in apprehension (where migrants are held in the U.S. as they await a decision) while 47% resulted in expulsion back to Mexico. Both those numbers have greatly fluctuated in the past year – In May 2020, migrant encounters resulted in 93% expulsion and 7% apprehension.

Ohio Set To Open One Of The Largest Solar Factory Complexes In The World 

The company known as First Solar revealed plans this week to double its manufacturing in the United States by building a new factory in Ohio. This construction would give Ohio the largest solar factory complex in the world outside of China. 

The investment is currently valued at $680 million and marks First Solar’s third factory in the Toledo area. First Solar is the only major manufacturer of solar panels headquartered in the United States. 

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First Solar said it believes “this will be the largest fully integrated solar manufacturing complex in the world — outside of China. It will be capable of making one solar module every 2.8 seconds, and it will primarily supply America’s booming market for clean energy.”

“This investment really helps us position the United States on solid footing to achieve its objectives of energy independence and security – and having US manufacturing enable it,” First Solar CEO Mark Widmar told the media.

This expansion will also work to fulfill the Biden Administration’s goal of cutting US greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030. Ramping up renewable energy sources, like solar power, are key for accomplishing this goal. 

China currently makes most of the materials required for producing photovoltaic (PV) solar panels, and its supply chain has been completely tainted within the past year due to trading issues and allegations of forced labor. 

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“China largely dominates the PV supply chain. But unlike many other major solar manufacturers, we’re not dependent on China. That’s because our thin-film PV panels do not rely on the popular crystalline-silicon technology that is made mostly in China. Renewables created this great promise of liberation and energy independence. But the dominance of the Chinese has taken over this industry. It really undermines the opportunity we created when renewables became reliable,” Widmar explained. 

The new facility in Ohio is projected to be 1.8 million square feet, and would allow First Solar to produce around half of all their solar panels in America. The new facility couldn’t have come at a better time for the nation either, as the solar power capacity in America in 2020 was the highest it’s ever been, and that capacity is set to quadruple by 2030, meaning more of the nation will have the infrastructure required to make solar energy more accessible. 

The biggest concern, according to Widmar, will be finding workers who are experienced in the field and able to come work in Ohio full time. 

“There clearly is a shortage of qualified workers. It is a concern of ours. Due to the constrained labor market, First Solar plans to lean more on automation than it normally does. In addition to robots, First Solar plans to use automated and guided vehicles to move materials. For example, the fork lifts at the new facility will all be automated,” Widmar said.

Kids using technology

Biden To Call For Universal Preschool As Part Of New Family Plan 

President Joe Biden is set to deliver his first joint address to Congress this week, where he is planning on calling for universal preschool as a part of his American Families Plan. According to his administration Biden is looking to make a major “investment in our kids,” and will be laying out how his proposal will help families with basic expenses. 

White House officials claim that the administration has held briefings with key senators to discuss the details of the proposal itself. The child care proposal comes after Biden began enforcing the American Relief stimulus packages to help aid Americans struggling to make ends meet with the Covid-19 pandemic. 

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According to the White House Biden will be calling for a national partnership among all the states to provide free, high quality, accessible preschool care to all 3 and 4-year-old children. Once fully implemented, the act will help more than 5 million children and save the average family $13,000. 

The $200 billion investment is set to prioritize more underprivileged areas first, as these have been the hardest within the past year. The main goal is to give every family the freedom to decide where they want their child to go to preschool without worrying about the cost. The plan will also work to ensure all publicly-funded preschools are high quality, meaning they have a low student-to-teacher ratio, offer a developmentally appropriate curriculum, and create an overall supportive environment that is inclusive for all students. 

According to reports from CBS news, “the president is seeking to leverage tuition-free community college and teacher scholarships to support those who wish to earn a bachelor’s degree or another credential that supports their work as an educator, or to become an early childhood educator. Educators will also receive job-embedded coaching, professional development, and wages that reflect the importance of their work.”

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All employees working in pre-k programs and Head Start will earn a wage of at least $15 an hour as a part of the American Families Plan. Additionally those with the proper qualifications will receive compensation commensurate with kindergarten educators. 

Currently the average child care worker earns $11.65 an hour, so the inclusion of these financial provisions for workers will hopefully work to bring back some of the thousands of child care workers who were forced to leave the labor force due to the pandemic. 

Studies have shown that kids who participate in pre-K are more likely to take honors classes and are less likely to repeat a grade while kids in lower-income areas do better once they reach middle school. This is due to a multitude of educational inequality issues within America, but a lot of it roots back to the access most children have to preschool programs. 

“Together, these plans reinvest in the future of the American economy and American workers, and will help us out-compete China and other countries around the world.”

This proposal, along with the proposals for the American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan, will include a tax increase for major corporations and the wealthiest 1% of Americans.

The White House

Biden’s Stimulus Plan Relieves Lower-Income Americans Of Heavy Taxes

The relief law also extends the federal boost for unemployment benefits as well as food stamps and other aid programs for struggling renters and homeowners throughout the country. The overall goal of this relief package was to specifically help lower-income households who have been hit the hardest by the pandemic. 

Mortgage

Biden Administration Looking To Reverse Trump-Era Mortgage Policy

The Trump-era policy removed a lot of protections for those who were dependent on loans for their payments, as well as created the space for riskier loans to be dealt out.