Education Department considers extending student loan relief amid Omicron surge – POLITICO

Education Department considers extending student loan relief amid Omicron surge – POLITICO

“Later this week, we will be announcing whether to extend the pause further,” an Education Department spokesperson said in a statement to POLITICO.

The shift in the administration’s thinking on the fast-approaching Feb. 1 deadline for restarting payments comes as the White House faced a torrent of pressure from Democrats seeking another extension of relief.

The White House had previously said it was evaluating the impact of the Omicron variant but said it was still preparing to restart the collection of monthly payments on Feb. 1.

POLITICO reported over the weekend of a tense meeting between White House officials and student debt activists who want Biden to extend the relief and use executive action to cancel large swaths of outstanding student loan debt. White House officials weren’t persuaded at that time to extend the relief, POLITICO reported, citing people familiar with the meeting.

Democrats on Capitol Hill had been pressuring the Biden administration to extend the relief.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) earlier this month said that the moratorium on student loan payments and interest should be extended until the economy reaches pre-pandemic levels of employment.

Some progressives have been more blunt about the political consequences they fear next year unless the Biden administration takes more aggressive action to help student loan borrowers — especially after the collapse of negotiations over Build Back Better.

“With BBB delayed, Child Tax Credits will expire and student loans will restart within a matter of weeks. Working families could lose thousands of $/mo just as prices are rising,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said on Twitter on Monday. “That alone is reason for @POTUS to act on student loans ASAP – w/ either moratorium or cancellation.”

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) said on Twitter that the Biden administration’s plans to restart student loan payments “makes no sense.” He added: “Awful on the substance and awful politics. We need to do better to deserve victory in 2022.”

A slew of other Democrats have also urged the Biden administration to extend the relief.

“We need to address student debt in general, but in the meantime an extension would be a step in the right direction,” said Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), who is up for reelection in 2022. He said that the relief would help both “struggling families in the midst of a pandemic” and the economy overall.

Warnock led a letter with 13 other Senate Democrats to Biden earlier this month calling on the administration to at least continue to keep interest rates at 0 percent on federal student loans even if monthly payments resume. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who signed onto that letter, said that he thought the administration was considering an extension of relief. “I don’t know what the chances are right now, but we are pushing them pretty hard,” he said on Friday.

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), the chair of the House education committee, also supports continuing the pause …….