President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced that he is extending the pause on student loan payments through May amid the surge of Omicron infections, CNN reports.
Biden rejected calls from Democratic lawmakers to extend the pause beyond the February 1 deadline but the administration’s efforts to respond to the spread of Omicron appears to have changed the dynamics.
"Given these considerations, today my Administration is extending the pause on federal student loan repayments for an additional 90 days — through May 1, 2022 — as we manage the ongoing pandemic and further strengthen our economic recovery," Biden said in a statement. "Meanwhile, the Department of Education will continue working with borrowers to ensure they have the support they need to transition smoothly back into repayment and advance economic stability for their own households and for our nation."
The announcement came two weeks after White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the administration planned to restart payments in February.
Dems pressured Biden:
A number of Democrats led by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley have been pressuring Biden to extend the pause.
"Extending the pause will help millions of Americans make ends meet, especially as we overcome the Omicron variant," the trio said in a statement.
The Biden administration previously made it easier to enter into a repayment plan.
"As we prepare for the return to repayment in May, we will continue to provide tools and supports to borrowers so they can enter into the repayment plan that is responsive to their financial situation, such as an income-driven repayment plan," Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement Wednesday.
Push to cancel student loan debt:
Schumer and other Democrats have also continued to press Biden to cancel much of the country’s student debt entirely.
Schumer and Warren have been especially vocal in urging Biden to use executive action to cancel up to $50,000 in debt per person.
Biden on the campaign trail vowed to cancel up to $10,000 per borrower. He instructed federal agencies to conduct a review of whether he had the authority to do it himself but there has been no word of any movement for months.
Psaki said earlier this month that Congress should pass a bill to cancel student debt.
"If Congress sends him a bill, he's happy to sign it. They haven't sent him a bill on that yet," she said.