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Economics in Brief: The Nitty Gritty of Biden’s Plan to Cancel Student Debt

Also, a grim reminder of the human cost of medical debt.

(Photo by Jeremiah Lawrence / Unsplash)

In Canceling Student Loan Debt, the Devil’s in the Details

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden announced a long-awaited plan to cancel student loan debt, to address the nation’s growing student debt crisis. According to statistics gathered by Nerd Wallet, student loan debt totals $1.78 trillion and is growing. The lion’s share of that debt is owed to the federal government, the largest lender in higher education.

But as outlined by PBS, this proposal won’t address the entirety of the problem. First, up to $10,000 of federal student debt will be forgiven, if the holder makes less than $125,000 per year, or $250,000, if married and filing jointly. Pell grantees will be eligible for up to $20,000 of student debt relief. (Private loans won’t be considered for relief.)

The pause in paying back student loans issued in response to Covid-19 will also be extended through Dec. 31, and repayment options will be reassessed according to the new, lower balances.

An estimated 43 million people will benefit from this plan, but women, especially women of color may stand to benefit most from this relief. An analysis by 19th News finds that women hold two-thirds of student loan debt, with women of color owing the most.

A New Study Finds the Sickest Are Some of the Most Indebted

A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found strong correlations between chronic illness and financial wellbeing.

University of Michigan researchers examined the insurance claims of $2.86 million adults and found that the more chronic illnesses an individual has, the worse their financial hardships become. About 17% of individuals without any chronic illnesses had a low credit score, compared to 47% of people with seven to 13 chronic illnesses, Axios reports.

The pattern was found in other categories of financial health too, including medical debt owed. In comparing medical debt collections, those with chronic illnesses had an average medical debt of $1,252 – about 60% higher than those without a chronic illness (784%). The conditions linked to the largest increases in medical debt in collections were severe mental illness, substance use disorders, stroke, congestive heart failure and liver disease, Axios notes.

Dancers at a North Hollywood Strip Club Move to Unionize

Dancers from Star Garden, a North Hollywood strip club, claim that their employers have not provided them with adequate labor protections, according to reporting by the Los Angeles Times.

Allegations include discriminatory hiring practices, inadequate privacy protections — allowing customers to film them — not doing enough to protect them from physical harm and more. Those who spoke out against current labor conditions claim Star Garden retaliated by firing them all together.

After complaints to the management, filing unfair labor practice charges to the National Labor Relations Board, submitting a complaint with Cal/OSHA, and protesting labor conditions just outside of the club, a majority of Star Garden dancers past and present are making another move toward solidarity: unionizing — or at least attempting to join an existing union.

On Aug. 17, the dancers filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board, to join the Actors’ Equity Assn., an established union, an actors and entertainment industry union. If successful, Star Garden will be the first unionized strip club since 1996, when San Francisco’s now shuttered Lusty Lady Peepshow joined the Service Employees International Union.

This article is part of The Bottom Line, a series exploring scalable solutions for problems related to affordability, inclusive economic growth and access to capital. Click here to subscribe to our Bottom Line newsletter.

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Marielle Argueza is Next City’s INN/Columbia Journalism School intern for Summer-Fall 2022. She’s a journalist based in New York City with more than ten years of experience. Her beats have included education, immigration, labor, criminal justice and climate. Her work in K-12 education is award-winning and she was recognized multiple times by the California News Publishers Association. She is a recent graduate of Columbia Journalism School, where she was Toni Stabile Investigative Fellow. During her time earning her master’s degree, she drew from her extensive knowledge of local journalism to report stories on the city, state and national level. Her work includes a story on Harlem’s last assisted-living facility for people living with HIV/AIDS; a profile on New York State’s first Farmers Union; and a database of deaths within the Milwaukee County Jail. She is also a recipient of other fellowships and scholarships from several notable organizations within the news industry including the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA), Association of Alternative Newsmedia (AAN), ProPublica, and the Journalism and Women Symposium (JAWS).

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