Education Department considers extending student loan relief amid Omicron surge

“Later this week, we can be asserting whether or not to increase the pause additional,” an Education Department spokesperson mentioned in an announcement to POLITICO.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“With BBB delayed, Baby Tax Credit will expire and student loans will restart inside a matter of weeks. Working households might lose 1000’s of $/mo simply as costs are rising,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) mentioned on Twitter on Monday. “That alone is motive for @POTUS to behave on student loans ASAP – w/ both moratorium or cancellation.”

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) said on Twitter that the Biden administration’s plans to restart student loan funds “is mindless.” He added: “Terrible on the substance and terrible politics. We have to do higher to deserve victory in 2022.”

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

“We have to tackle student debt typically, however within the meantime an extension can be a step in the appropriate route,” mentioned Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), who’s up for reelection in 2022. He mentioned that the relief would assist each “struggling households within the midst of a pandemic” and the economic system general.

Warnock led a letter with 13 different Senate Democrats to Biden earlier this month calling on the administration to at the least proceed to maintain rates of interest at 0 p.c on federal student loans even when month-to-month funds resume. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who signed onto that letter, mentioned that he thought the administration was contemplating an extension of relief. “I do not know what the possibilities are proper now, however we’re pushing them fairly arduous,” he mentioned on Friday.

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), the chair of the Home training 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 shopper advocacy teams have also called for an extension of the relief — as have a number of suppose tanks aligned with the Biden Education Department.

Republicans, in the meantime, have beforehand known 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 relief 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 a further $53 billion.

Greater than 40 million People have benefited from the federal authorities’s emergency relief 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 via government motion a number of instances.

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

“Since Day One of many Biden Administration, we’ve been arduous at work delivering significant relief to student loan debtors,” the Education Department spokesperson mentioned in an announcement on Tuesday. “That began with an extension of the pause on federal student loan compensation till January 31, 2022. So far, the pause has saved 41 million debtors 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. Officers had been taking a look at 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. These plans have been mentioned internally throughout the administration however not but publicly introduced.

Final week, Education Department officers introduced that they might enable debtors to extra simply take part in income-based compensation plans by accepting self-certification of their earnings, reasonably than requiring them to submit tax paperwork.

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

Wealthy Cordray, the pinnacle of the Workplace of Federal Student Assist, who’s overseeing the restart of student loan funds, mentioned through the webinar {that a} clean transition for debtors was his “prime precedence” within the coming weeks.

“It has many transferring elements we’re rigorously considering via, and there are new developments virtually on daily basis, so please keep tuned.” Cordray mentioned.

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