The White House on Friday extended a pause on federal student loan repayments, delaying them until Jan. 31, 2022, according to a statement from the Department of Education.
The reason why, according to the agency, is because federal officials believe “this additional time and a definitive end date will allow borrowers to plan for the resumption of payments and reduce the risk of delinquency and defaults.” The pause will be the final one, the department added.
Student loan payments were placed on hold last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The moratorium was slated to expire on Sept. 30.
Congressional Democrats had urged the White House to push back the date due to the COVID-19 “Delta” variant.
Now the department, the statement said, will start notifying borrowers about the final extension in the coming days and provide “resources and information about how to plan for payment restart as the end of the pause approaches.”
“It is the department’s priority to support students and borrowers during this transition and ensure they have the resources they need to access affordable, high-quality higher education,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in the statement.
Approximately 41 million Americans will benefit from the moratorium, according to the Education Department.
Several top Democrats hailed the Education Department’s decision on Friday.
“Our broken student loan system continues to exacerbate racial wealth gaps and hold back our entire economy,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement along with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.). “We continue to call on the administration to use its existing executive authority to cancel $50,000 of student debt (per borrower).”
Democrats in Congress and White House officials have sparred over whether President Joe Biden’s administration has the authority to forgive student loans. Schumer and others, for months, have routinely called for Biden to forgive the loans.
During a weekly press conference on July 28, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) stated that Biden can only pause or delay student loan payments and cannot unilaterally cancel them.
“He can postpone, he can delay, but he does not have that power,” Pelosi told reporters. “That would best be an act of Congress.”
If such a measure is proposed during this congressional session, several Democrat senators said they wouldn’t support it, arguing it would be unfair to borrowers who paid off their debts.
Said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) to reporters earlier this year: “I’m not inclined to support because a lot of people have worked very, very hard to pay off their debts, and this would set a bad example.”