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April 11, 2019

King, Portman, Coons Introduce Domenic’s Law to Provide Relief to Parents of Disabled Children

Bill Allows Student Loan Forgiveness for Families Suffering from Child’s Permanent Disability

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Angus King (I-Maine), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and Chris Coons (D-Del.) introduced Domenic’s Law, legislation which would allow a parent whose child develops a total and permanent disability to qualify for student loan forgiveness. This legislation was originally part of the Senators’ Stop Taxing Death and Disability Act which would both amend the Higher Education Act to provide student loan discharges to parents who take out loans for their children and also change the Internal Revenue Code to exempt individuals from the tax liability created by the forgiveness of their student loans in cases of death and disability.

“When parents take out loans to allow their child to pursue higher education, they do so as an investment in their son or daughter’s future. But sometimes, tragedy strikes and alters those plans so dramatically that it is impossible for the student or the parents to ever repay these loans,” said Senator King. “In the face of this heartbreak, families should be able to focus on caring for their now-disabled child instead worrying about student loan payments. During these challenging periods, we must provide whatever relief we can for these families. It’s not just smart policy – it’s also the right thing to do.”

“Families like the Carducci family of Steubenville, Ohio, whose son Domenic has become permanently and totally disabled are going through unimaginable grief,” said Senator Portman. “Because of this tragic disability, they cannot afford a massive student loan bill. The last thing that families in these situations need is that kind of financial burden. I remain committed to addressing this legislative issue fully, and urge my colleagues to support providing relief to families enduring such difficult circumstances.”

“We have constituents—hardworking Americans—who bear the burden of student loan debt in the face of their child's total and permanent disability,” said Senator Coons. “Our legislation to eliminate the tax on discharged federal student loans for students who experience a total and permanent disability was signed into law in 2017. However, parents who borrow federal funds on their child's behalf still need relief if the child become totally and permanently disabled. I urge my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to fix this inequity and provide the relief these families deserve.” 

The federal government authorizes the forgiveness of certain federal loans in the case of total and permanent disability of the borrower, including student loan discharge for disability.  Each year, thousands of Americans, including veterans, develop disabilities or chronic health conditions so severe that they are determined by the federal government to be totally and permanently disabled. In recognition of the tremendous burden of their disabilities, Congress authorized the Department of Education to forgive outstanding federal student loans held by these Americans. Many private lenders also discharge student loans as a result of total and permanent disability.

Despite this law, families of individuals who suffer great personal loss or severe injury are often shocked to learn that when parents take out student loans for their children, they are not eligible for the same student loan forgiveness by the federal government and private lenders.

Domenic’s Law will allow a parent whose child develops a total and permanent disability to qualify for student loan discharge.  The bill resolves an inconsistency in statute by authorizing the Department of Education to discharge federal loans owed by a parent of a child who becomes totally and permanently disabled. Currently parents are allowed to discharge federal student loans if their child dies, but not if their child develops a total and permanent disability.

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