- The House and Senate education committee chairs urged Biden to extend the student-loan payment pause.
- They said borrowers don’t have the information they need to resume payments in October and it should last until early 2022.
- This follows 64 Democrats and 128 organizations calling for an extension through next year.
Democrats and advocacy organizations have been calling on President Joe Biden to extend the student-loan payment pause past its September expiration to ensure borrowers are not improperly thrown into repayment. Two top Democrats just joined the fight.
Patty Murray and Bobby Scott, chairs of the Senate and House Education Committees, respectively, sent a letter to Biden on Wednesday urging him to extend the payment pause until early 2022.
Before borrowers have to restart payments, they wrote, the government must ensure borrowers have the information they need to navigate the transition, but they don’t have that information yet.
“Millions of Americans have been displaced or relocated during the pandemic, but the previous Administration chose not to ensure servicers maintained contact with the vast majority of borrowers,” the lawmakers wrote. “As a result, the Department and servicers likely have outdated contact information for many borrowers, which may prevent those borrowers from receiving the assistance they need, creating devastating consequences for those most in need of support.”
—Senator Patty Murray (@PattyMurray) June 30, 2021
Murray and Scott wrote that Education Secretary Miguel Cardona has the authority to extend the payment pause under the HEROES Act of 2003 — an authority that was exercised by both the Trump and Biden administrations.
They added that should an extension occur, the Education Department should use that extra time to pursue multiple forms of borrower outreach, including coordinating with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to “develop evidence-based approaches that successfully reach borrowers.”
This is only the latest call for an extension of the payment pause. On June 21, 64 Democrats, led by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, urged Biden in a letter to extend the payment pause until March 31, 2022, or until the economy returns to pre-pandemic employment levels, whichever is longer.
A few days later, 128 organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Service Employees International Union (SEIU), sent a letter to the president, urging him to extend the payment pause until the administration has followed through on its promises to fix the student-loan system and cancel federal student debt.
Cardona has hinted at the possibility of extending the payment pause, first in May when he said extending the payment pause was “not out of the question,” and most recently last month, when he told the Senate Appropriations Committee that conversations on the extension are ongoing.
The department has not yet provided further details on an extension, and lawmakers remain adamant that borrowers are not ready to resume payments come October.
“Extending the pause on student loan payments, interest, and collections is a critical step toward ensuring the Department can provide borrowers with an effective re-entry for repayment,” Murray and Scott wrote. “We urge you to move forward with this request as soon as possible.”