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Biden pushed to extend student loan payment pause amid debt forgiveness roadblocks

President Biden is under pressure to extend the pandemic-era student loan payment pause into next year while the administration faces legal challenges to its forgiveness plan, which is currently no longer accepting applications.

Over 50,000 borrowers have signed a petition, organized by the advocacy organization Student Debt Crisis Center (SDCC), to urge Biden to extend the pause until the legal roadblocks to forgiveness are cleared.

The payment pause currently expires on Dec. 31 after Biden extended the program in August. That announcement butted up against the Aug. 31 deadline set to expire at the time. The White House described that pause extension as “one final time” and came as the president announced his long awaited student loan forgiveness plan.

“As borrowers wait for the Department of Education to cancel up to $20,000 in student debt, Americans should not be subjected to repayment on loans they are set to have canceled. To protect borrowers, the President must extend the student loan payment pause until debts are canceled,” the SDCC petition reads, citing the continuing COVID-19 pandemic and high inflation.

Loan payments were first put on hold in March 2020 under former President Trump, and the freeze has since been extended six times, most recently until after the midterm elections but ending before the new year.

Biden announced a long-awaited program to forgive up to $10,000 in student loan debt and up to $20,000 for recipients of Pell Grants.

But two federal appeals courts struck down the program in recent days.

On Thursday, a Texas district judge who also ruled against the program called it “an unconstitutional exercise of Congress’s legislative power” in response to a lawsuit from a conservative advocacy group on behalf of borrowers not eligible for relief. 

And on Monday, the same day The Washington Post reported the administration is considering another payment pause extension despite it saying August’s would be the last time, another appeals court temporarily blocked the program.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

On Friday, the administration halted the acceptance of applications to the program.

The SDCC petition also called for Biden to include all federal student loan borrowers in the payment pause after Family Federal Education Loans (FFELP) borrowers were excluded from it. 

The FFEL Program, which stopped issuing loans in 2010, was a student loan system that had private banks manage the loans that were guaranteed by the federal government. Borrowers with privately held FFEL Program loans have also been excluded from the student loan forgiveness plan.

Source: The Hill

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