Sanders introduces bill to provide financial assistance to needy students

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Many families who have lost loved ones due to COVID-19 and are contending with lost family income are seeking Social Security survivor benefits. Further, early predictions from SSA actuaries indicate that disability incidence will rise for the next three years related to long-term medical problems experienced after a COVID-19 diagnosis, resulting in an increase of individuals unable to maintain substantial gainful employment and seeking SSDI benefits. By amending the Social Security Act to extend eligibility for child’s benefits until age 26 for at least half-time post-secondary students who are survivors; children of disabled workers; and eligible grandchildren of retired workers, the Helping Students SOAR with Social Security Act would provide families with crucial support to increase educational opportunity. Today, with families enduring financial hardship and college enrollment rates falling at an alarming rate, extending the child benefit for post-secondary students would serve as a lifeline for our nation’s most vulnerable families. The financial instability and health concerns from the COVID-19 pandemic have disrupted college attendance across the nation, exacerbating the strain already felt by students and their families in recent years from skyrocketing tuition. As of March 2021, undergraduate enrollment overall had declined by nearly 6%, with community colleges experiencing an 11% drop. First-generation, low-income, Black, Latino, Native American, and rural white students have experienced the most precipitous decline in college-going rates, with many citing loss in their own or family income as a factor in their decision to delay their college plans or withdraw. The Helping Students SOAR with Social Security Act is endorsed by: Social Security Works, Strengthen Social Security Coalition, Generations United, National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), and Blue Future.

Social Security provides critical benefits to over 3 million children ages 19 and younger. For the families of these children, the benefits serve as critical wage replacement when income is lost due to retirement, disability, or death. “Children who receive Social Security benefits have faced unique and challenging hardships – like the loss of a parent. For these young people, the financial burdens are real – often requiring them to work in order to compensate for their limited family income – and stand in the way of their continued education. This legislation would provide the support these students and their families need to remove these barriers and allow them to further their education. It’s crucial that we pass this bill to provide greater opportunity and access to college for over one million of these young Americans,” said Sen. Van Hollen.

From 1965-1982, eligible child Social Security dependents were permitted to continue benefits as qualifying post-secondary students. The program, whose beneficiaries were disproportionately first-generation, low-income, or from underrepresented backgrounds, was repealed with the Reagan Administration’s cuts to Social Security. Studies have shown that the elimination of the program reduced the probability of a student beneficiary attending college by one-third. “It is absolutely unacceptable that hundreds of thousands of bright young Americans do not get a higher education each year, not because they are unqualified, but because their family does not have enough money,” said Sen. Sanders. “For 4 million kids ages 19 and under, Social Security child benefits provide critical help. It is time to expand the Social Security child benefit to give students the support they need through college to help address this crisis.”

Source: WASHINGTON, July 20 – Bernie Sanders

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