By Erica L. Green
WASHINGTON — The Education Department announced Friday that it would continue a moratorium on federal student loan payments through Jan. 31, 2022, extending emergency relief for millions of borrowers that had been set to expire next month.
The department said that this would be the “final extension” of the pause, which the Trump administration instituted in March 2020 at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, and that the additional time would allow the agency to transition borrowers back into repayment and reduce the risk of default and delinquency. More than 40 million borrowers have federally held loans, and during the moratorium, they have been interest-free and not subject to repayment or penalties for nonpayment.
“The payment pause has been a lifeline that allowed millions of Americans to focus on their families, health and finances instead of student loans during the national emergency,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement. “As our nation’s economy continues to recover from a deep hole, this final extension will give students and borrowers the time they need” to plan to resume payments.
Several Democratic leaders in Congress had pressed the Biden administration over the summer to continue the student loan pause, saying that the fast-approaching expiration was ill-timed considering that millions were still suffering financial hardship from the pandemic.
“Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, millions of Americans have struggled to keep a roof over their heads, pay bills and put food on the table,” the heads of the Senate and House Education Committees, Senator Patty Murray of Washington and Representative Bobby Scott of Virginia, wrote in a June letter. “While the economy has begun to show promising signs of recovery, more than nine million Americans remain out of work, and the economic and health disparities created by the pandemic are severe.”
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