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Biden extends pause on student loan repayment

Federal student loan repayments were set to resume on Feb. 1 before Biden’s latest extension until May 1, marking the third delay he has issued.

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After a hiatus due to the pandemic, student loan payments will need to resume May 1.
Dreamstime / TNS

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Wednesday extended a pause on student loan repayments for an additional 90 days, following pressure from fellow Democrats and a spike in COVID-19 cases.

Federal student loan repayments were set to resume on Feb. 1 before Biden’s latest extension until May 1, marking the third delay he has issued.

In a statement announcing his decision, Biden said the pause to monthly student payments has “given 41 million Americans badly-needed breathing room during the economic upheaval caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic.”

Biden’s administration had initially signaled that it would not issue another extension, setting off a wave of criticism from activists and congressional Democrats. The surge in COVID-19 cases caused by the omicron variant has upended the administration’s messaging about a return to normalcy.

The average monthly student loan payment is roughly $400, according to the Federal Reserve.

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Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said that continuing the pause would enable the administration to assess the impact of the omicron variant on student borrowers.

Biden’s announcement comes after criticism from his party’s progressive wing and prodding from his moderate allies to take action on the issue.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., one of Congress’ most liberal members, on Monday noted that resumption of student debt repayments was set to take place at a time when the cost of living is rising due to inflation.

“Working families could lose thousands of $/mo just as prices are rising,” Ocasio-Cortez said on Twitter. “That alone is reason for @POTUS to act on student loans ASAP - w/ either moratorium or cancellation.”

The Debt Collective, a national group representing borrowers, celebrated the extension, but also called on Biden to go further and use his executive power to cancel student debt entirely.

“For at least a few more months, struggling families will be able to keep tens of billions of dollars in their pockets — costly student loan payments that the federal government continues to prove it doesn’t need to function,” Braxton Brewington, the group’s spokesman, said in a statement. “Next, the Biden administration should permanently relieve this financial burden on families and the economy by using his executive authority to eliminate all federal student debt."

Biden has previously indicated he would sign legislation to cancel $10,000 of student debt, a smaller portion than many activists want. In his statement Wednesday, Biden urged borrowers to pursue other options during the period that repayments remain paused.

“As we are taking this action, I’m asking all student loan borrowers to do their part as well: take full advantage of the Department of Education’s resources to help you prepare for payments to resume; look at options to lower your payments through income-based repayment plans; explore public service loan forgiveness; and make sure you are vaccinated and boosted when eligible,” Biden said.

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©2021 McClatchy Washington Bureau. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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