PROVIDENCE, RI – Ahead of the federal student loan payment pause set to expire at the end of next month, U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse have joined a bicameral group colleagues in the Senate and House in urging the Biden Administration to extend the student loan payment pause beyond August 31, 2022.  This effort comes on the heels of 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 more than 100,000 student loan borrowers in Rhode Island.

 

“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.”

 

Reed and Whitehouse and their colleagues 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.

 

Full text of the letter follows:

 

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.

 

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