Student-loan borrowers and Biden’s Education Department ‘are unprepared to resume payments in May,’ 43 Democratic lawmakers say

  • 43 Democrats called on Biden to extend the student-loan payment pause through at least the end of the year.
  • They said borrowers and the Education Department are “unprepared” to resume payments in May.
  • Many Democrats are ramping up pressure for Biden to deliver further relief to federal borrowers.

Another group of Democratic lawmakers just made their opinions on student-loan payments known: borrowers should not be forced to pay off their debt in less than two months.

On Monday, 43 Democratic lawmakers, led by Rep. Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania, wrote a letter to President Biden requesting he extend the pause on student-loan payments “at least through the end of this year.”

They cited a 2020 report from the Education Department that noted the “heavy burden” accompanying transitioning millions of federal borrowers back into repayment, and they wrote that while the economy has been making strides in pandemic recovery, households across the country are continuing to experience financial hardship.

“For these reasons, we are concerned that both the Department and borrowers are unprepared to resume payments in May,” the lawmakers wrote. 

“Millions of borrowers have benefitted from the pause in payments,” they added. “Although progress has been made, we believe it is vital to ensure that we continue to work to alleviate the continued impact the pandemic is having on families across the country. Therefore, we request that you continue to suspend student loan payments, at least until the end of this year.”

Student-loan payments, with waived interest, have been on pause for over two years, and Biden just extended that pause for his third time through May 1. But as that date is quickly approaching, Democrats in both the House and Senate have been sounding the alarm on throwing 43 million federal borrowers back into repayment too early, despite Republicans criticizing further relief to borrowers due to its cost to taxpayers and the economy.

Last week, for example, Chair of the Senate education committee Patty Murray released a statement calling on Biden to extend the pause on payments until 2023 to give him time to “permanently fix” the loan system by restoring defaulting borrowers to good standing and fixing flawed loan forgiveness programs, among other things.

“The student loan system is broken,” Murray said. “It is ruining lives and holding people back. Borrowers are struggling with rising costs, struggling to get their feet back under them after public health and economic crises, and struggling with a broken student loan system—and all this is felt especially hard by borrowers of color.”

The Government Accountability Office also recently noted the burden with restarting payments for millions of borrowers after a two year pause. The Education Department told the agency in a recent report that it will be “a challenge to motivate” those borrowers to pay off their debt, and it will also be a challenge for the department to facilitate outreach. 

Biden has not yet commented on when, or if, further relief will be coming, but White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain recently suggested that before May, Biden will either extend the pause on payments a fourth time or decide what type of broad relief he can carry out by executive action.