March 31, 2022
Pressley, Warren, Omar, Schumer, Jayapal, Clyburn, Padilla, Warnock, Colleagues Urge Biden Administration to Extend the Payment Pause and Cancel Student Debt
WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), along with Representatives Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), led a letter to President Joseph R. Biden urging the administration to act now to extend the pause on federally-held student loan payments until at least the end of the year and to provide meaningful student debt cancellation.
“Given the fast-approaching deadline for borrowers to resume payments, your administration must act as quickly as possible to extend the pause and make clear to the American public your intention to cancel a meaningful amount of student debt. We look forward to supporting your administration in getting it done,” wrote the lawmakers.
The payment pause has been a significant investment throughout the pandemic, providing essential relief to millions of families during the economic and public health crisis, and saving borrowers an average of $393 per month. Borrowers have greatly benefited from the ongoing payment pause, taking the opportunity to pay down other debt, relieve financial pressures from lost jobs or decreased earnings, and support their families’ needs. Restarting repayment will financially destabilize many borrowers, and will cause hardship for many who cannot afford repayment. Most borrowers are not financially prepared to shoulder another bill as they face skyrocketing costs for necessities like food and gas.
Black students in particular borrow more to attend college, borrow more often while they are in school, and have a harder time paying their debt off than their white peers. They are more than three times as likely to go into default within four years on their federal loans as white borrowers – and face wage garnishment, tax refund withholding, and federal benefit offset. Latino borrowers are more likely to struggle in repaying their loans and have some of the lowest post-education earnings among all racial or ethnic groups. For example, even when controlling for educational attainment, Latinos with bachelor’s degrees earn 21% less than their white peers do. When looking at disparities in default, twenty percent of Latino borrowers defaulted on their student loans compared to 13% of white borrowers six years after starting college. On top of that, communities of color have also had higher rates of illness and death from COVID-19 throughout the pandemic.
“Canceling student debt is one of the most powerful ways to address racial and economic equity issues. The student loan system mirrors many of the inequalities that plague American society and widens the racial wealth gap,” wrote the lawmakers. “Student debt cancellation must be one of the key actions in your comprehensive approach to advance equity as our nation works to rebuild a stronger and more equitable economy.”
Joining the letter in the House are Representatives Madeline Dean (D-Pa.), Steven Horsford (D-Nev.), Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), Nikema Williams (D-Ga.), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Jesus G. “Chuy” García (D-Ill.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.), Federica Wilson (D-Fla.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Yvette D. Clarke (D-N.Y.), Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Grace F. Napolitano (D-Calif.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Andy Levin (D-Mich.), James P. McGovern (D-Mass.), Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson Jr. (D-Ga.), Alma S. Adams (D-N.C.), Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.), Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.), John B. Larson (D-Conn.), Ted W. Lieu (D-Calif.), Terri A. Sewell (D-Ala.), Donald M. Payne, Jr (D-N.J.), Dwight Evans (D-Pa.), Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), André Carson (D-Ind.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.), Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.), Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Marie Newman (D-Ill.), Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), J. Luis Correa (D-Calif.), Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.), Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.), Brendan F. Boyle (D-Pa.), Albio Sires (D-N.J.), Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Katie Porter (D-Calif.), Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.), Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), Sylvia R. Garcia (D-Texas), Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.), Paul D. Tonko (D-N.Y.), Troy A. Carter (D-La.), G. K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.), Sanford D. Bishop, Jr (D-Ga.), Stephen F. Lynch (D-Mass.), Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas), Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-Mo.), Michael F.Q. San Nicholas (D-Guam.), Anthony G. Brown (D-Md.), Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick (D-Fla.), and Lucy Mcbath (D-Ga.). Joining the letter in the Senate are Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeffrey Merkley (D-Ore.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.).
In December, Rep. Pressley, Sen. Warren and Majority Leader Schumer applauded the Biden Administration’s extension of the student loan payment pause and reiterated their calls for him to cancel $50,000 in federal student debt by executive action. Pressley, Warren and Schumer had previously written to President Biden releasing new data about the adverse economic impact of restarting student loan payments and calling on him to act without delay to cancel up to $50,000 of student debt.
Rep. Pressley, Senator Warren, and Majority Leader Schumer have consistently called on President Biden to cancel student debt. Earlier this year, they led their colleagues in reintroducing their bicameral resolution outlining a bold plan for President Biden to tackle the student loan debt crisis by using existing authority under the Higher Education Act to cancel $50,000 in student loan debt for Federal student loan borrowers.
Earlier this month, Rep. Pressley and Arisha Hatch, vice president and chief of campaigns at Color of Change, published an op-ed in The Grio in which they called on President Biden to use his executive authority to cancel up to $50,000 in student loan debt per borrower, a move that would provide relief to millions of borrowers, particularly Black women, who are the most educated group in the country and are disproportionately burdened by student loan debt.
In July, Rep. Pressley, Sen. Warren and Majority Leader Schumer led their colleagues on a bicameral letter to President Biden calling on him to extend the pause on federal student loan payments until at least March 31, 2022, and applauded his decision in August to extend the payment pause through January.
On April 13, Rep. Pressley testified at a Senate Banking subcommittee hearing to examine the student loan debt crisis in our country. In her testimony, Rep. Pressley discussed the racial and economic implications of canceling student debt, as well as her own experience with the student loan system. Full video and transcript of her testimony is available here.
On April 1, Rep. Pressley, Senator Warren, and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey held a press conference at which they called on President Biden to tackle the student loan debt crisis by using existing authority under the Higher Education Act to cancel up to $50,000 in student loan debt for Federal student loan borrowers.
Congresswoman Pressley has been leading the legislative fight for broad based student debt cancellation. Reps. Pressley, Alma Adams, and Ilhan Omar have repeatedly led their colleagues in calling on House leadership to take urgent action to combat the student debt crisis by including student debt cancellation in any COVID relief package. In March, Pressley and Omar introduced the Student Debt Emergency Relief Act, legislation to cancel student loan debt and shield borrowers from any involuntary payments and garnishment during the COVID-19 crisis.