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A group of Congressional Democrats is pushing for President Joe Biden to continue the payment freeze on federal student loans at least through the end of 2022.
In a letter to Biden on Monday, a group of 43 House Democrats, led by Pennsylvania Representative Conor Lamb, said that Biden needed to continue the “progress” made by Democrats in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic by extending the pause, or else the rapid transition to repayment would risk borrowers being delinquent of defaulting on their loans.
“Thank you for all your work to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic,” the Congress members wrote to Biden. “We must continue this important progress by providing relief to everyday Americans from the challenges of the pandemic. Although American families, communities, and our economy have made great strides in overcoming COVID-19, it is still impacting people’s lives,” they continued, citing a report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which claimed that 20 million households did not have enough to eat and 10 million households were behind on rent. “Unemployment remains higher than two years ago, and families are experiencing significant price increases on household goods, food, and energy,” the Democrats wrote. “Accordingly, we believe that the Administration should extend its pause on student loan repayment and interest accrual.”
“We were encouraged to see the Administration extend the pause for another 90 days earlier this year, from February to May 2022. We believe that a further extension is necessary, at least through the end of this year.” The Democrats cited a 2020 report from the Department of Education that claimed the transition back to repayment would be complicated both for the Department and its loan servicers, but also for borrowers. The report said at the time that without Executive Action extending the relevant provisions of the CARES Act, the Department would “face a heavy burden in ‘converting’ millions of borrowers to active repayment at the same time, with a certain proportion becoming delinquent, at least initially.”
The Democrats wrote that those circumstances continued to apply to borrowers two years later. “Defaulting on federal student loans comes with serious consequences for borrowers—including putting Social Security retirement benefits at risk, risk of being sued, having tax refunds withheld, and having paychecks garnished, among many other serious consequences. This is an unfortunate reality for those who have suffered economically and otherwise during the pandemic—and we believe these consequences can be mitigated through a continued pause in payments.”
“Millions of borrowers have benefitted from the pause in payments,” the letter concluded. “Although progress has been
made, we believe it is vital to ensure that we continue to work to alleviate the continued impact the pandemic is having on families across the country. Therefore, we request that you continue to suspend student loan payments, at least until the end of this year.”
The Biden administration has already given early indications that it will extend the freeze again before it ends on May 1. Earlier this month, the Department of Education told federal student loan servicers not to send repayment notices to borrowers, as The Daily Wire reported. Biden Chief of Staff Ron Klain told the left-wing podcast “Pod Save America” that Biden was waiting to make a decision on canceling debt before resuming payment. “The president is going to look at what we should do on student debt before the pause expires, or he’ll extend the pause,” Klain said.