Briefline

Sen. Bennet calls on Biden to extend student loan repayment suspension

By: - March 24, 2022 6:30 am

Sen. Michael Bennet speaks at an event at Denver’s Confluence Park on Aug. 24, 2021. (Chase Woodruff/Colorado Newsline)

Sen. Michael Bennet is urging President Joe Biden to extend the pause on student loan repayment until the end of the year, citing continued economic stress due to the pandemic and the need for a long-term solution to massive student loan debt.

“We must do all that we can to ease the financial burden of student loan debt for borrowers who took out loans to pay for college,” the Democrat wrote in a letter dated Wednesday.

“An increasing number of borrowers are struggling with high student loan debt instead of buying a home, having children, and starting businesses,” Bennet added. “The Administration should use this opportunity to help borrowers ease back into repayment and work with Congress to make systematic changes in the way college students pay for postsecondary education.”

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Approximately 43 million students have $1.6 trillion in outstanding student loan debt as of September 2021, according to the Department of Education. In Colorado, 773,000 people owe approximately $28.5 billion.

The federal student loan payments suspension began in March 2020 at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and has been extended five times. The freeze has saved people an estimated $195 billion, according to an analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Right now, payments and interest are expected to resume in May.

Other pandemic-related government support such as the expanded child tax credit, eviction moratorium and enhanced unemployment benefits have already lapsed.

Biden pledged to forgive $10,000 in student loan debt as a presidential candidate, but has not done so yet. Instead, his administration has expanded existing debt forgiveness mechanisms to borrowers with permanent disabilities, students defrauded by for-profit colleges and borrowers who work in public service. In a midterm election year, however, there could be political incentive to further relieve millions of borrowers.

Bennet wants to use the additional six months an extension would provide to “work with leaders in both parties to seek long-term solutions to the root causes of the student debt problem in the United States.”

He did not specifically propose total or partial loan forgiveness, but did offer solutions such as permanently making most loans interest-free, considering federal seed money for low-income students to build savings accounts for school, increasing incentives for employers to help pay tuition and increasing the maximum Pell Grant award.

Bennet is not the only Colorado Democrat calling for an extension of the payment freeze. Rep. Diana DeGette tweeted a call on Wednesday for Biden to extend the suspension until at least the end of the year.

“Too many Americans are being crushed by student loan debt. And, as our country works to recover from the pandemic, now is not the time to restart payments,” she wrote.

DeGette was one of 43 members of Congress who signed a similar letter sent to Biden on Monday calling for an extension of the payment freeze.

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Sara Wilson
Sara Wilson

Sara Wilson covers state government, Colorado's congressional delegation, energy and other stories for Newsline. She formerly was a reporter for The Pueblo Chieftain, where she covered politics and government in southern Colorado. Wilson earned a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and as a student she reported on Congress and other federal beats in Washington, D.C.

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