Pressley, Warren, Schumer, Courtney Lead Call Urging Biden to Extend Pause on Student Loan Payments

June 23, 2021
Press Release

Text of Letter (PDF)

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02) 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.

“President Biden can and must cancel student debt with the stroke of a pen. We urgently call on him to act,” said Rep. Pressley. “In the interim, extending this payment pause will provide a crucial additional layer of relief for millions of borrowers. We can’t turn our backs on these families as we work toward an equitable economic recovery.”

“Biden should cancel student debt, but in the meantime he should extend the payment pause so that borrowers aren’t hurt,” said Senator Warren.

“President Biden should act quickly to pause payments and interest for federally-held student loans as our country continues to recover from the historic COVID-19 health and economic crisis," said Majority Leader Schumer. "Failing to extend this pause would not only hurt our nation's struggling students, but it could also impact future economic growth and recovery.”

During the coronavirus pandemic, executive actions by former Education Department (ED) Secretary Betsy DeVos and the passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act paused payments for millions of borrowers. Recognizing the disproportionate burden that student debt places on borrowers during an economic crisis, President Biden extended this pause through September 30, 2021, for the 87% of borrowers with direct federal loans. During this pause, ED has provided approximately $72 billion in relief on student loan interest alone - money that has been reinvested into the economy. Borrowers have reported being able to pay down other debt, relieve financial pressures from lost jobs or decreased earnings, and support their families.

However, student loan payments are currently scheduled to resume on October 1, 2021. This could create an unnecessary drag on the economic recovery, especially with unemployment benefits also set to expire in September. Following past emergency suspensions of student loans during natural disasters, increased numbers of borrowers became delinquent or defaulted on their loans.

“The scheduled resumption of student loan payments in October could create a significant drag on our economic recovery. Before the pandemic, the average student loan payment was between $200 and $299 per month – a substantial part of a household budget, and money that is desperately needed for basic needs,” the lawmakers wrote.

Extending the pause on payments would provide ongoing relief for student loan borrowers, who are disproportionately women and people of color, the same groups that have been more adversely affected by the pandemic. It would also give ED more time to prepare for payments to resume.

“We urge you to act quickly to extend the current pause on payments and interest so that borrowers are not penalized and student debt payments do not drag down the pace of our economic recovery. Specifically, we ask that you extend the pause by at least six months—until March 31, 2022—or until the economy reaches pre-pandemic employment levels, whichever is longer,” the lawmakers concluded.

The letter is signed by Representatives Brendan Boyle (PA-02), Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Hank Johnson (GA-04), Gwen Moore (WI-04), Jahana Hayes (CT-05), Jesus "Chuy" Garcia (IL-04), Alma Adams (NC-12), Katie Porter (CA-45), Mondaire Jones (NY-17), Mark Takano (CA-41), Bobby L. Rush (IL-01), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Mike Doyle (PA-18), David N. Cicilline (RI-01), Bennie Thompson (MS-02), Gerald E. Connolly (VA-11), Dwight Evans (PA-03), Jared Huffman (CA-02), James P. McGovern (MA-02), Mark Pocan (IN-07), Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), Andre Carson (IN-07), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Albio Sires (NJ-08), Jerry McNerney (CA-09), Ruben Gallego (AZ-07), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), John B. Larson (CT-01), Jim Himes (CT-04), Raul Grijalva (AZ-03), Rosa L. DeLauro (CT-03), Peter DeFazio (OR-04), Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-05), Ritchie Torres (NY-15) and Joaquin Castro (TX-20), along with Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Brain Schatz (D-Hawaii), and Jack Reed (D-R.I).

In February, Congresswoman Pressley and Senator Warren, along with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and their colleagues, reintroduced 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 up to $50,000 in student loan debt for Federal student loan borrowers. The lawmakers renewed their calls earlier this month at a press conference to call on Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in student debt through executive action.

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.

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