Sixth extension of loan pause far cry from student debt forgiveness

By Emma Reilly
Opinion Editor

In continuation of an existing COVID-19 relief moratorium, federal student loan payments were delayed for the sixth time in more than two years on April 6. Borrowers — expecting loan payments to resume less than a month from the announcement — are now authorized to hold off on all payments until Aug. 31.

Further extending the measure aids borrowers who would struggle to shoulder loan payments on top of the rising costs of food and gas. President Joe Biden’s decision to prolong loan forgiveness reflects a realistic understanding of the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on current students, former students, and their families.

“We are still recovering from the pandemic and the unprecedented economic disruption it caused,” Biden said in a statement. “Additional time will assist borrowers in achieving greater financial security and support the Department of Education’s efforts to continue improving student loan programs.”

According to The New York Times, 41 million people will benefit from their federal student loans not accruing interest for another four months. Additionally, the payment pause will prevent 7.5 million Americans from defaulting on their loans.

The extension will mitigate borrowers’ financial stress by providing for a return to loan payments once national inflation and savings rates improve.

According to The Washington Post, “Economists say restarting student loan payments will squeeze the personal finances of millions of adults…renewed student loan payments would force many Americans to reduce their spending or savings.”

Biden’s decision to extend the moratorium will continue to prevent tens of thousands of Americans from facing burdensome financial strain.

“The payment pause has been a significant federal investment throughout the [COVID-19] pandemic, providing essential relief to millions of families…and saving them an average of $393 per month,” congressional signees said in a March 31 letter to the president. “Borrowers have benefited greatly from the ongoing payment pause, taking the opportunity to pay down other debt, relieve financial pressures from lost jobs or decreased earnings, and support their families’ needs.”

In the letter, a number of politicians demonstrated their interest in canceling federal student debt altogether. It seems that continued reinstatements of the moratorium furthered considerations of complete loan forgiveness.

“Although there may be different ideas about the best way to structure cancellation, we all agree that you should cancel student debt now,” the letter said.

Continual extensions to the payment pause indicate that the president is still considering the matter.

“With each and every repayment extension, [Biden] makes a stronger case for canceling [student debt],” the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s National Director of Youth and College Wisdom Cole said.

According to The New York Times, Cole sees student debt as a distinctly racial issue. Cole’s belief is shared by others who have studied the burden student loans place on Americans.

According to Martine Powers, host of the podcast Post Reports, “for a lot of people who have been with this debt for their entire adult lives, this pause during the pandemic has given them a glimpse of what life would be like debt free.”

This is especially true for Black women, according to Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, a reporter for The Washington Post who investigated how the lives of Black women have changed in light of loan forgiveness.

“The payment moratorium has touched the lives of many Americans, but it has perhaps meant the most to the group who stood to gain the most from it — Black women…who shoulder a disproportionate share of the $1.7 trillion student debt burden,” Douglas-Gabriel said.

Though many people — particularly individuals onto whom greater financial stress is systematically thrust — are hopeful that student loan cancellation is being seriously contemplated by the Biden administration, the contentious prospect faces numerous impediments.

According to The New York Times, Biden is not interested in forgiving student debts via executive action. Rather, the president wishes to see a legislative action pass through Congress — which is unlikely, since debt forgiveness lacks the necessary senatorial support.

In spite of the president’s caveat, Chairwoman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Sen. Patty Murray is urging his administration to pause federal student loan payments until at least 2023, according to The Washington Post.

While Murray and other congress people are clearly interested in furthering loan forgiveness in the United States, some argue that lawmakers are leading on American borrowers.

“If they’re not going to do it, that gives false hope to borrowers,” Founder of the Student Debt Crisis Center Natalia Abrams said.

Americans with federal student loans to pay off will benefit from Biden’s temporary extension of the payment pause, especially groups with disproportionate amounts of debt. This sixth continuation of the existing moratorium, paired with sentiments shared by several congress people, points toward further pursuit of debt forgiveness in the U.S. Unfortunately, any such goal seems far-fetched as current support for the issue fails to transform into concrete action.

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