New student loan freeze 'isn't enough': POTUS urged to cancel debt

New student loan freeze 'isn't enough': POTUS urged to cancel debt
President Joe Biden, joined by First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and their children Ashley Biden and Hunter Biden, takes the oath of office as President of the United States Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

President Joe Biden is reportedly planning to keep the moratorium on student loan repayments in place through August 31, an extension that progressives criticized as inadequate as they continued pressuring the White House to fully cancel all outstanding federal student loan debt.

"We have to keep pushing. This isn't enough," the Debt Collective tweeted in response to reports Tuesday that the Biden administration intends to announce its fourth extension of the payment freeze as soon as Wednesday.

"Pausing a crisis doesn't end it," added the debtors' union, which led a day of action on Monday urging Biden to use his executive authority to forgive the roughly $1.6 trillion in federal student debt saddling tens of millions of Americans.

The payment pause was originally set to expire on May 1, potentially worsening financial hardship for millions of people across the U.S. who are already struggling to afford basic necessities. According to the Education Data Initiative, the average monthly student loan payment in the U.S. is around $460.

A recent analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York estimated that the moratorium has saved borrowers a combined $195 billion in loan payments.

As Politico noted Tuesday, Biden's planned extension is considerably shorter than what many Democrats have been requesting" and it "tees up another fight over the relief just months before the midterm elections."

Top Democratic lawmakers such as Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) had urged Biden to keep the payment freeze in place until at least 2023.

"I think some folks read these extensions as savvy politics, but I don't think those folks understand the panic and disorder it causes people to get so close to these deadlines just to extend the uncertainty," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted Tuesday following news of Biden's plans. "It doesn't have the effect people think it does."

"We should cancel them," the New York Democrat added.

Mike Pierce, executive director of the Student Borrower Protection Center, echoed that argument, telling Politico that "tens of millions of people with student debt are once again in limbo as Washington plays politics with borrowers' financial lives."

"Joe Biden needs to keep his promises to fix the broken student loan system and cancel student debt," Pierce said. "As voters head to the polls in November, they will not settle for anything less."

Biden has thus far rebuffed calls for broad-based student debt cancellation while also failing to push legislation that would forgive $10,000 per borrower, a promise he made on the campaign trail in 2020.

Last year, Biden instructed the Education Department to craft a memo outlining his authority to cancel federal student loan debt without congressional approval. Internal documents indicate that the memo has been complete for months, but the White House has yet to release it, outraging progressive lawmakers and grassroots activists.

Recent polling by Data for Progress shows that a majority of U.S. voters support canceling all or some student loan debt.

"Federal student debt payments and interest have been paused for 739 days—and the government has been doing just fine," the Debt Collective tweeted Tuesday. "It's time to cancel it."

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