Peanut Butter heralds the leadership of Congressmen Patrick Meehan (Republican form Pennsylvania) and Suzan DelBene (Democrat from Washington), both members of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Ways and Means Committee, for introducing the bipartisan HELP for Students and Parents Act (H.R.-1656). This federal legislation encourages private employers to offer tax-free contributions to their employees’ student debt obligations and/or towards 529 college savings plans.
The bill was initially introduced last term of Congress by then-Congressman Robert Dold of Illinois. I had the pleasure of working with Congressman Dold to develop its language, and hosted him at our 1871 headquarters to announce its introduction last summer. Unfortunately, the Congressional term ended before the legislation could advance for vote.
During a trip to Washington, D.C. last month, our head of government affairs, Philippe Melin, and I met with Congressman Meehan in his Capitol office. We told him that America’s student debt problem is growing at nearly $3,000 per second, and that employers can be part of the solution. Congressman Meehan has long been a leader on student debt issues and was aware of the solutions set forth in Dold’s HELP for Students and Parents Act as well as the Employer Participation in Student Loan Assistance Act, which was introduced last month by Congressmen Rodney Davis and Scott Peters. Rep. Meehan conveyed to us that he would re-introduce the HELP for Students and Parents Act this term, which he did yesterday.
As a members of the Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over tax related issues, Congressman Meehan and Congresswoman DelBene have become critical allies for moving this issue forward through the Committee process.
Momentum is clearly building in Congress for employer incentives to participate in student debt assistance with the introduction of the HELP for Students and Parents Act by a well-respected members of the Ways and Means Committee and the addition of 47 bipartisan cosponsors (more than 10 percent of Congress) to the Employer Participation in Student Loan Assistance Act.
In the meantime, leading employers are not waiting for Congress, and are partnering with Peanut Butter to provide student loan assistance programs that help their employees tackle student debt.