Student-loan payments are set to restart in less than 3 weeks. It's the closest Biden has ever been to the deadline without giving borrowers an update.
- Student-loan payments are set to resume after August 31.
- With less than 3 weeks to go, Biden has still not indicated whether that date will be pushed back.
"Tick tock, Mr. President," Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said in July 2021.
Over a year later, the clock is still ticking for millions of federal student-loan borrowers as they are wondering — with less than three weeks until their payments are set to resume — if that deadline will get extended, and if President Joe Biden will cancel their student debt.
Biden and his administration have confirmed on numerous occasions that he will stick with his timeline to announce broad student-loan forgiveness before August 31. But that's also the date the pandemic pause on student-loan payments is set to expire, and advocates and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have expressed concerns with that quickly approaching deadline. It leaves a very limited amount of time for the Education Department to get notices out to borrowers, and the companies that service their loans, informing them of the date they must restart paying their monthly bills.
With the four previous payment pause extensions, borrowers were not given extensive warning — but if Biden was sticking with his prior timelines, borrowers would know by now if payments are resuming at the end of August. For example, when payments were set to resume on May 1, Biden announced an extension on April 5, and when payments were set to resume last September, Biden announced an extension in early August.
While there has yet to be an announcement, though, an extension of the pandemic pause might be coming. Over recent weeks, the Education Department has directed loan companies to halt messaging to student-loan borrowers regarding restarting payments, which is the same thing the department did leading up to the last extension of the pause. But without any firm guidance from the department, there's not much borrowers or the companies can do.
Scott Buchanan, the executive director of the Student Loan Servicing Alliance — a trade group that represents federal student-loan servicers — told Insider that he thinks "the department continues to be unsure about what the administration is going to do here and doesn't want to be in the position of having to tell borrowers repayments are going to restart and then tell them it's not."
And with Biden reportedly considering $10,000 in broad student-loan forgiveness for borrowers making under $150,000 a year, Buchanan added that it would "take months" for loan companies to figure out how to implement that relief, but at this point, he's preparing for student-loan payments to resume on September 1 unless Biden directs companies otherwise.
Still, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona promised in June that student-loan borrowers would get "ample notice" on any changes to their account balances — and many would argue half a month isn't quite the notice they expected.
A pause extension is a good start, Dems say — but not enough
It's not secret how Republican lawmakers feel about continued extensions of the student-loan payment pause, along with broad debt relief. Three of them recently introduced legislation that would put an end to targeted loan forgiveness programs while restarting loan payments to prevent relief for all federal borrowers from ever coming to fruition. A lot of their criticism is toward the cost targeted relief has placed on taxpayers — for example, they said in a fact sheet for the legislation that the payment pauses have cost $4.3 billion per month.
But Democrats aren't too concerned with that cost — in fact, many have argued it's necessary relief as millions of borrowers continue to recover from financial pandemic setbacks. At the end of July, 107 Democratic lawmakers signed onto a letter urging Biden to extend the student-loan payment pause, writing that throwing borrowers back into repayment would "force millions of borrowers to choose between paying their federal student loans or putting a roof over their heads, food on the table, or paying for childcare and health care—while costs continue to rise and while yet another COVID-19 variant increases hospitalizations nationwide."
The lawmakers also noted that resuming payments would "further complicate administrative actions already underway or contemplated by the Department" like broad student-loan relief and reforms to targeted relief programs like Public Service Loan Forgiveness — a program with a temporary waiver advocates are also pushing to extend.
But extending the pause is not where Democrats want Biden to end. Since the president pledged to approve $10,000 in loan forgiveness on the campaign trail, Democrats and advocates have been waiting over two years to see that actually happen, and they've been pushing him to go as big as possible on any relief. Sen. Warren, for example, continues to push for $50,000 in debt cancellation even though Biden previously said that amount is off the table, and groups like the NAACP want $50,000 to be the minimum amount of relief under consideration.
"The American people are anxious. Voters are anxious. Your base is anxious. Extending the freeze will only extend the anxiety that millions of Americans feel," NAACP President Derrick Johnson recently wrote in a letter to Biden. "As the midterm elections approach and millions of Americans – including NAACP members – wonder when their concerns will be addressed," Johnson added, "we pray that God grants you the courage to make a bold decision on student debt; one that will be remembered and celebrated for generations to come."
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