By:  Nick Anderson and Jeff Stein
Source: The Washington Post

Biden administration extends federal student loan payment pause until May

The Biden administration, shifting course on a crucial pocketbook issue for millions of adults, announced Wednesday it will extend a pause on federal student loan payments through May 1 as the omicron variant threatens to hurt the U.S. economy.

President Biden depicted the move as an essential step to help borrowers at a moment of ongoing public health challenges. Until now, the payment moratorium had been scheduled to end in a little more than a month.

“Now, while our jobs recovery is one of the strongest ever — with nearly 6 million jobs added this year, the fewest Americans filing for unemployment in more than 50 years, and overall unemployment at 4.2 percent — 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 said in a statement.

“This is an issue Vice President Harris has been closely focused on, and one we both care deeply about. Given these considerations, today my Administration is extending the pause on federal student loan repayments for an additional 90 days — through May 1, 2022 — as we manage the ongoing pandemic and further strengthen our economic recovery.”

Many activists had pushed for the administration to take the step, but the White House initially resisted extending the moratorium.

In August, the Education Department had issued the fourth suspension of federal student loan payments during the coronavirus pandemic. That moratorium had been set to expire on Jan. 31. At the time it was issued, administration officials had said it would be the final such extension offered to borrowers.

Republicans have slammed the administration for granting borrowers such a lengthy grace period. Rep. Virginia Foxx (N.C.), the top Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee, called the August extension “a grave disservice to borrowers across the country” and a “dereliction of duty.” Foxx argued at the time that the administration should have worked with Congress to get repayments started by Oct. 1.