Merkley, Wyden Join Colleagues in Urging Biden Administration to Extend Pause on Student Loan Payments

Merkley, Wyden Join Colleagues in Urging Biden Administration to Extend Pause on Student Loan Payments

‘Resuming student loan payments would force millions of borrowers to choose between paying their loans or putting a roof over their heads, food on the table, or paying for childcare and health care’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, ahead of the federal student loan payment pause set to expire at the end of next month, joined a bicameral letter led by Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), alongside Representatives Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.-14), Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.-29), and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.-07), in urging the Biden administration to extend the student loan payment pause beyond August 31, 2022. This effort comes following several news reports that the Biden administration has not made a final decision about whether to extend the student loan payment pause – a decision that will affect millions of student loan borrowers.

For over two years, the Department has provided critical flexibility to millions of federal student loan borrowers by pausing payments, as many have struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic. This much needed pause has helped many borrowers to keep a roof over their heads, secure childcare, and purchase food, health care, and medicine during the course of a pandemic responsible for the deaths of more than 1 million people in the U.S.,” wrote more than 100 lawmakers to President Joe Biden and Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “For the first time, many borrowers have had the opportunity to pay down debt, open a savings account, purchase a home, and save for retirement—none of which would have been possible without the payment pause.”

The lawmakers emphasized how resuming student loan payments would force millions of borrowers to choose between paying their loans or putting a roof over their heads, food on the table, or paying for childcare and health care—while costs continue to rise and while yet another COVID-19 variant increases hospitalizations nationwide.

“Despite significant decreases over the last month, gas prices are still high, and many borrowers still have to pay exorbitant amounts each week in order to commute to their jobs. Food prices remain high, as suppliers contend with ongoing supply chain issues and the war in Ukraine. We still have a significant childcare crisis throughout the country, which has caused already-high costs to spike to 40% of their pre-pandemic levels,” the lawmakers added. “Low-income borrowers, Black and Brown borrowers, and women borrowers still face severe financial hardships as COVID-19 continues to infect individuals throughout the country and exacerbate existing inequities.”

The lawmakers concluded by pointing out how resuming student loan payments at this moment would further complicate administrative actions already underway at the U.S. Department of Education. All federal student loan borrowers are in limbo as they await upcoming actions from the Department of Education or their federal student loan servicer.

Merkley and Wyden have long called on the Biden administration to extend the student loan payment pause and to deliver relief to student borrowers. In April, the Senators joined a letter calling on the Departments of Education and Justice to follow through on their pledge to improve the handling of student debt bankruptcy claims. Around the same time, the Senators also joined in calling on President Biden to extend the student loan payment pause and to provide meaningful relief to student borrowers.

In addition to Merkley and Wyden, the letter is led by Senators Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Elizabethe Warren (D-Mass.), and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and joined by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

Joining Underwood, Cárdenas, and Pressley in the House in signing the letter are: Reps. Alma Adams (D-N.C.-12), Colin Allred (D-Texas-32), Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.-44), Karen Bass (D-Calif.-37), Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.-16), Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.-02), Anthony Brown (D-Md.-04), Shontel Brown (D-Ohio-11), Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.-24), André Carson (D-Ind.-07), Troy A. Carter (D-La.-02), Joaquin Castro (D-Texas-20), Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick (D-Fla.-20), Judy Chu (D-Calif.-27), Katherine Clark (D-Mass.-05), Yvette D. Clarke (D-N.Y.-09), J. Luis Correa (D-Calif.-46), Joe Courtney (D-Conn.-02), Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.-07), Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.-04), Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.-04), Diana DeGette (D-Colo.-01), Val Demings (D-Fla.-10), Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas-35), Veronica Escobar (D-Texas-16), Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.-13), Dwight Evans (D-Pa.-03), Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.-07), Jesús "Chuy" García (D-Ill.-04), Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas-29), Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas-15), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.-03), Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.-05), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas-18), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.-07), Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.-08), Henry C. Johnson, Jr. (D-Ga.-04), Kaiali'i Kahele (D-Hawaii-02), William Keating (D-Mass.-09), Robin Kelly (D-Ill.-02), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.-17), Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.-02), Conor Lamb (D-Pa.-17), John B. Larson (D-Conn.-01), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.-13), Andy Levin (D-Mich.-09), Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.-12), Lucy McBath (D-Ga.-06), James McGovern (D-Mass.-02), Grace Meng (D-N.Y.-06), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.-10), Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.-32), Marie Newman (D-Ill.-03), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.-At-Large), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.-14), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.-05), Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.-09), Donald Payne Jr. (D-N.J.-10), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine-01), Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.-02), Katie Porter (D-Calif.-45), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.-08), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.-40), Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.-36), Gregorio Sablan (D-N. Mariana Is.-At-Large), Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.-38), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.-09), Terri A. Sewell (D-Ala.-07), Albio Sires (D-N.J.-08), Darren Soto (D-Fla.-09), Haley Stevens (D-Mich.-11), Thomas Suozzi (D-N.Y.-03), Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.-15), Mark Takano (D-Calif.-41), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.-13), Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.-15), Juan Vargas (D-Calif.-51), Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.-07), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.-12), Peter Welch (D-Vt.-AL), Nikema Williams (D-Ga.-5), and Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.-24).

Find a copy of the letter HERE and below.

Dear President Biden and Secretary Cardona,

In roughly 35 days, on September 1, 2022, tens of millions of federal student loan borrowers are scheduled to resume payments. Despite repeated reports and surveys concerning whether borrowers will be able to pay,1 we understand the Administration is considering restarting student loan payments at the end of August.2 We write today to urge you to extend the pause on student loan payments, given the numerous economic issues facing borrowers across the nation, as well as administrative actions in process by the Department of Education.

For over two years, the Department has provided critical flexibility to millions of federal student loan borrowers by pausing payments, as many have struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic. This much needed pause has helped many borrowers to keep a roof over their heads, secure childcare, and purchase food, health care, and medicine during the course of a pandemic responsible for the deaths of more than 1 million people in the U.S.3 For the first time, many borrowers have had the opportunity to pay down debt, open a savings account, purchase a home, and save for retirement—none of which would have been possible without the payment pause.4

Resuming student loan payments would force millions of borrowers to choose between paying their federal student loans or putting a roof over their heads, food on the table, or paying for childcare and health care—while costs continue to rise and while yet another COVID-19 variant increases hospitalizations nationwide. Despite significant decreases over the last month, gas prices are still high, and many borrowers still have to pay exorbitant amounts each week in order to commute to their jobs.5 Food prices remain high, as suppliers contend with ongoing supply chain issues and the war in Ukraine.6 We still have a significant childcare crisis throughout the country, which has caused already-high costs to spike to 40% of their pre-pandemic levels.7 Low-income borrowers, Black and Brown borrowers, and women borrowers still face severe financial hardships as COVID-19 continues to infect individuals throughout the country and exacerbate existing inequities.8

Moreover, resuming student loan payments at this moment would further complicate administrative actions already underway or contemplated by the Department—which could contribute to unnecessary confusion for borrowers in the upcoming months. Currently, many borrowers are in limbo as they await upcoming actions from the Department or their federal student loan servicer—either through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) waiver or through the one-time account adjustments announced by Ed on April 19, 2022 that would count past periods of forbearance or deferment.9

Accordingly, we ask that the Administration continue to keep federal student loan payments paused.

Sincerely,

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