President Joe Biden‘s administration announced on Wednesday (December 22nd) that due to the latest surge in COVID-19 cases across the country as a result of the Omicron variant, it will continue letting Americans hold off on repaying their student loans.
“We know that millions of student loan borrowers are still coping with the impacts of the pandemic and need some more time before resuming payments,”, President Biden said in a statement that announced the move. The decision means that those borrowers do not have to make any payments until May 1st. The original deadline for loan repayment to begin was to be January 31st. The interest rate will be unchanged, remaining at 0% during the three-month extension period. “This additional extension of the repayment pause will provide critical relief to borrowers who continue to face financial hardships as a result of the pandemic, and will allow our Administration to assess the impacts of Omicron on student borrowers,” said Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona in a statement released to the public. The extension benefits 41 million Americans who are borrowers, including 27 million people who have been struggling or unable to pay towards their loan debt since early last year.
Observers noted that this move was influenced by heavy public pressure on the Democrats, and had support from Vice President Kamala Harris as midterm elections approach. The Secretary of Education and President Biden did stress that payments will resume after May 1st, however. Their plans to help borrowers include providing billions of dollars in relief for those with disabilities and assisting small business owners through the continuation of the Paycheck Protection Program.
The news was greeted with relief online, but also a renewed call for the Biden administration to live up to its campaign promises of forgiving at least $10,000 of federal student loan debt per person. The greater consensus is advocating for the elimination of student loan debt outright. Representative Ayanna Presley (D-MA), one of the progressive members of Congress, applauded the move but reiterated her position on canceling student debt outright in addition to joining Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) in releasing a statement requesting that the administration make a move to eliminate up to $50,000 per person in student loan debt. So far, Biden has asked that Congress prepare a bill to make that happen instead of doing so through executive action.