President Joe Biden has announced a 90-day extension on student debt relief in light of the recent surge in omicron cases nationwide, according to CNN.
Nearly 43 million federal student loan borrowers now have until May 1, 2022 to resume payments, which have been paused since the start of the pandemic. The moratorium was previously set to expire at the end of next month.
“We know that millions of student loan borrowers are still coping with the impacts of the pandemic and need some more time before resuming payments,” Biden wrote in a statement.
The change comes less than two weeks after White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the Biden administration would reinstitute payments on February 1. A study by the non-profit group Data for Progress found that approximately half of more than 500 borrowers were “not at all confident” they could begin repaying their loans by that date.
“We don’t need to start the student loan system right now,” Mike Pierce, executive director of the Student Borrower Protection Center, told NPR. “Nothing about the trajectory of the pandemic and of omicron suggests that things are immediately better in a way that makes us comfortable sending people student loan bills.”
According to the U.S. Department of Education, borrowers are saving about $5 billion a month with the temporary moratorium in place. However, more than 7 million people with federal student debt have already defaulted on their loans, and will likely struggle most when payments resume. Experts say those in default are more likely to be people of color, and those from lower economic backgrounds.
Biden is facing increased pressure to actually cancel some portion of student loans rather than continue the current cycle of uncertain, temporary reprieve. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) tweeted this week, “It’s time for the administration to cancel $50,000 in student debt and give relief to people who are getting crushed.”