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Biden extends student loan payment pause to 2022

The U.S. Department of Education announced Friday afternoon that it will extend the freeze on student loan repayments through the end of January 2022.

The announcement comes as Delta variant cases of COVID-19 surge throughout the country, and amid concerns of yet another economic crisis on the near horizon.

“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,” U.S. Secretary of Education 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 for restart and ensure a smooth pathway back to repayment."

The freeze on student loans was initiated by the Trump administration in 2020, and it was set to expire on Oct. 1.

Policy surrounding student loans has been a hot-button political issue since 2016. Former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders campaigned on the promise to unilaterally cancel all outstanding federal and private student debt, a move that helped secure much of the youth vote nationwide.

In his own campaign last year, President Joe Biden said he would consider cancelling up to $10,000 of federal loan debt per student. It's a campaign promise he has yet to make good on, despite calls for up to $50,000 in student debt forgiveness coming from senior members of his own party.

“With the flick of a pen, President Biden could get it done," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in June, calling for the president to sign an executive order forgiving $50,000 per federal borrower.

For now it seems the pandemic has forced the Biden White House's hand, at least temporarily. And as millions of millennials and Gen Zers - who owe a collective $1.59 trillion in student debt - grow accustomed to life without that debt hanging over their heads each month, the calls for unilateral student loan forgiveness are again intensifying.

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"Today, we won an extension of the student loan payment pause through January 2022. Thank you, President Biden. Now it’s time to cancel student debt," Congresswoman Cori Bush, D-Mo., said in a Friday afternoon tweet.

Her colleague Congressman Chuy Garcia, D-Ill., echoed the sentiment.

"Extension is good, but not enough. [President Biden] has the authority to cancel student debt, so why not relieve millions of individuals and families from crushing debt while boosting our economy at the same time?" he said in a Friday tweet.

The student debt freeze is not the only moratorium the Biden administration has renewed the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage. Earlier in the week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that it would be extending the eviction moratorium for about 90% of renters nationwide until Oct. 3.

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U.S. Department of Education

'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 for restart and ensure a smooth pathway back to repayment,' said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona in a statement.