Although the coronavirus pandemic has certainly shifted our focus for the better part of a year, few of us will have forgotten the important conversations we were having before it started. Namely, the question of whether or not we should forgive student loans as the costs of room, board, and tuition all climb sky high. Others are asking whether or not we should forgive all debt in the face of coronavirus — and believe it or not, Muslim Americans are the first ones answering “yes.”
The reason isn’t just based on the semantics of morality or how to live ethically in today’s complex world. It’s based on religion. And it isn’t just a Muslim thing, either.
The Torah explains: “There shall be no needy among you — therefore I command you: open your hand to the poor and needy kin in your land.”
According to the Prophet Muhammad, debts were unacceptable — and those in debt should be forgiven as an important way to experience Allah’s forgiveness.
A group of religious leaders from different faiths in America — Hatem Bazian, Joanna Lawrence Shenk, Laura Rumpf, and Zarina Kiziloglu — wrote a request for fellow Americans and their leaders to consider forgiving the debts brought about because of coronavirus: “As leaders from the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian communities in the Bay Area, we call upon state leaders to support all renters and small landlords devastated during the pandemic. Lawmakers took a good first step by extending the statewide eviction moratorium to June 30 and by providing some rental assistance with the passage of Senate Bill 91, but more is needed.”
They added, “Californians are currently more than $3.7 billion behind on rent because of work closures and job loss during the pandemic. The latest federal stimulus package gave California $2.6 billion for rental assistance, but that won’t cover every struggling renter or small landlord.”
The four leaders acknowledged that the debt will only grow between now and the time another stimulus is passed in the Senate — or if, rather — and that lawmakers need to work faster to help those in need.
California’s population was one of the earliest and hardest hit in the United States, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of businesses closing down due to bankruptcy. Maybe we should all fight a little harder to see our debts forgiven in these trying times — or maybe we should simply talk about the benefits of bankruptcy and visit an attorney, in which case we can visit website right now.
The issues experienced by both renters and landlords are compounded by debt collection agencies, who have pounced at opportunities provided by those in need.
Legislative director for the National Association of Consumer Advocates, Christine Hines, said, “The pandemic didn’t change how abusive debt collectors are, it just shows that they are capable of doing even more harm to vulnerable consumers than we thought.”
According to the United States Labor Department, unemployment was 13.3 percent nearly a year ago. The rate should continue falling as the crisis subsides — but that won’t make the debts people owe go away anytime soon.