Education Department considers extending student loan relief amid Omicron surge

Education Department considers extending student loan reduction amid Omicron surge

“Later this week, we will be announcing whether to extend the pause further,” an Education Department spokesperson stated in a press release to POLITICO.

The shift within the administration’s considering on the fast-approaching Feb. 1 deadline for restarting funds comes because the White House confronted a torrent of stress from Democrats searching for one other extension of reduction.

The White House had beforehand stated it was evaluating the affect of the Omicron variant however stated it was nonetheless getting ready to restart the gathering of month-to-month funds on Feb. 1.

POLITICO reported over the weekend of a tense assembly between White House officers and student debt activists who need Biden to increase the reduction and use govt motion to cancel massive swaths of excellent student loan debt. White House officers weren’t persuaded at the moment to increase the reduction, POLITICO reported, citing individuals accustomed to the assembly.

Democrats on Capitol Hill had been pressuring the Biden administration to increase the reduction.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) earlier this month stated that the moratorium on student loan funds and curiosity ought to be prolonged till the financial system reaches pre-pandemic ranges of employment.

Some progressives have been extra blunt concerning the political penalties they worry subsequent yr until the Biden administration takes extra aggressive motion to assist student loan debtors — particularly after the collapse of negotiations over Build Back Better.

“With BBB delayed, Child Tax Credits will expire and student loans will restart within a matter of weeks. Working families could lose thousands of $/mo just as prices are rising,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) stated on Twitter on Monday. “That alone is reason for @POTUS to act on student loans ASAP – w/ either moratorium or cancellation.”

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Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) stated on Twitter that the Biden administration’s plans to restart student loan funds “makes no sense.” He added: “Awful on the substance and awful politics. We need to do better to deserve victory in 2022.”

A slew of different Democrats have additionally urged the Biden administration to increase the reduction.

“We need to address student debt in general, but in the meantime an extension would be a step in the right direction,” stated Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), who’s up for reelection in 2022. He stated that the reduction would assist each “struggling families in the midst of a pandemic” and the financial system total.

Warnock led a letter with 13 different Senate Democrats to Biden earlier this month calling on the administration to at the very least proceed to maintain rates of interest at 0 % on federal student loans even when month-to-month funds resume. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who signed onto that letter, stated that he thought the administration was contemplating an extension of reduction. “I don’t know what the chances are right now, but we are pushing them pretty hard,” he stated on Friday.

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), the chair of the House schooling committee, additionally helps persevering with the pause on student loan curiosity, a committee aide confirmed to POLITICO on Tuesday.

A coalition of labor and student and client advocacy teams have additionally referred to as for an extension of the reduction — as have a number of assume tanks aligned with the Biden Education Department.

Republicans, in the meantime, have beforehand referred to as for the Education Department to restart student loan funds, citing the rising value to taxpayers of waiving curiosity and deferring funds. The division has estimated that the pandemic reduction for student loans in fiscal yr 2020 added practically $42 billion to the price of the student loan program; in fiscal yr 2021, it value an extra $53 billion.

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More than 40 million Americans have benefited from the federal authorities’s emergency reduction program for student loans, which started because the pandemic took off in March 2020. Congress paused curiosity and month-to-month funds for federal student loan debtors within the CARES Act — which the Trump and Biden administrations subsequently prolonged by means of govt motion a number of occasions.

Most just lately, in August, the Biden administration enacted what it referred to as a “final” extension of the reduction, which is about to run out on the finish of January.

“Since Day One of the Biden Administration, we’ve been hard at work delivering meaningful relief to student loan borrowers,” the Education Department spokesperson stated in a press release on Tuesday. “That started with an extension of the pause on federal student loan repayment until January 31, 2022. To date, the pause has saved 41 million borrowers tens of billions of dollars.”

Department officers have been sending notices to debtors concerning the restart of funds and had been additionally planning methods to melt the blow of the restart of funds subsequent yr. Officials had been offering an preliminary 90-day grace interval for missed funds in addition to a sweeping plan to expunge the defaults of debtors who had been struggling even earlier than the pandemic. Those plans have been mentioned internally inside the administration however not but publicly introduced.

Last week, Education Department officers introduced that they might permit debtors to extra simply take part in income-based reimbursement plans by accepting self-certification of their revenue, relatively than requiring them to submit tax paperwork.

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Department officers urged exterior teams to assist them get the message out concerning the looming restart of funds on Feb. 1 throughout a webinar final week.

Rich Cordray, the top of the Office of Federal Student Aid, who’s overseeing the restart of student loan funds, stated throughout the webinar {that a} easy transition for debtors was his “top priority” within the coming weeks.

“It has many moving parts we’re carefully thinking through, and there are new developments almost every day, so please stay tuned.” Cordray stated.