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COVID-19 Relief and College: A Discussion with Senator Schumer

Updated: Mar 30, 2021

by Diana Gilday

A Screenshot of the NYPRIG Spring 2021 Panel 1 (Image via Diana Gilday)

With COVID-19 relief on everyone’s mind, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer spoke about what the new 1.9 trillion dollar relief bill means for college students.

“Our American Rescue Plan, ARP, delivers $40 billion to public and private non-profit colleges and universities,” said Schumer. “We think that SUNY will get about $915 million and CUNY will get $818 million. So it’s a lot of money.”

Schumer went on to add that half the money is expected to go towards the colleges’ COVID- related costs, but the other half must go to students. The money going to students will go towards covering any additional college costs, as well as helping them with basic needs such as food insecurity and healthcare.

Schumer also mentioned that he made sure the money is going directly to the colleges, through the Department of Education, not through the governor, so the students actually see the relief.

“So, no there are no sticky fingers on them,” said Schumer. “I believe in you. I believe that SUNY and CUNY are the future of New York. They’re our path. They’re not a ladder. And so I will keep fighting for aid at the federal level.”

Although it was not included in ARP, student loan forgiveness is a big issue that Schumer, along with Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, is trying to tackle. The duo is pushing President Joe Biden to forgive up to $50,000 thousand of student debt.

“The debt is an anchor and it prevents people from doing what they want to do; from forming a family, from taking the job they want, from buying a car etc,” said Schumer.

Schumer explained too that forgiving student loan debt also has a major racial component to it.

“Twenty-eight percent of the wealth gap between Black and white would be eliminated if we cancel this 50,000 dollars of student debt, that’s huge,” said Schumer. “Second, if you’re Black, the chances after 10 years of having virtually no student debt is only 5 percent. If you’re white, it’s like 90 percent.”

Schumer was speaking to the viewers of the NYPIRG Spring 2021 Student Empowerment Virtual Conference held on March 19 and called upon them for assistance with his and Warren’s goal.

“I need your help. Elizabeth Warren and I are trying to get over 10 million contacts to the President,” he said. “You can email him, you can write him, you can call him whatever your preferred method of contact is.”

Moving on from college-related topics, Schumer was asked about what should be done in the next wave of relief to address climate change.

“I have three goals as Majority Leader long term, one is climate,” said Schumer. “I’ll tell you one quick story. I ride my bicycle on Saturdays around Brooklyn, I’m not zooming around at 40 miles an hour, I ride slowly and check things out and stop and talk to people. One of my favorite rides is around the southern waterfront of Brooklyn, it’s a beautiful wetland. I have been blessed with a beautiful grandson and shortly after he was born, and as I was riding my bike, I realized, will he ever see it?”

Schumer went on to say that the ARP didn’t include any form of aid for the climate since it was supposed to be a rescue plan for the immediate emergency of the pandemic, but the next big bill, the build back better plan, would include a major green infrastructure component.

“It would lay out power grids so that you could get wind and solar and other clean energy from any one part of the country to the other,” explained Schumer. “It would make sure that when we build things, that they would be built in a way that doesn’t emit carbon into the atmosphere.”

In this build back better plan, Schumer explained that he was most proud of his initiative for the United States to have clean cars.

“You get a point of sale rebate when you buy an electric car, the poorer you are, the deeper the rebate, so that poorer people can take advantage,” said Schumer. “The federal government would then make sure that a charger was installed at your home, or on the street if you live in an apartment building, and every highway would have electric charging.”

Schumer said that the government would give a subsidy to companies like Ford and General Motors to produce the most efficient electric cars using American labor. This makes it so not only environmental groups are in support of the provision, but also for the first time, the unions.

“We have a mission, we have to show so many Americans who are sour and angry and upset that there’s a positive like we’ve begun to do in the American rescue plan to make their lives better,” Schumer concluded.

To watch the whole conference visit



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