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Hirono, Schatz join effort to extend student loan repayment pause

U.S. Sens. Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, joined colleagues in both chambers in calling on President Joe Biden to extend the pandemic-based pause on federally held student loan payments until the end of the year and to consider outright student debt cancellation.

In all, 21 senators and 76 representatives signed off on a letter the Biden administration asking for the extension beyond the current May 1, 2022, expiration date. 

“Given the fast-approaching deadline for borrowers to resume payments, your administration must act as quickly as possible to extend the pause and make clear to the American public your intention to cancel a meaningful amount of student debt,” the lawmakers wrote. “We look forward to supporting your administration in getting it done.”

The letter stated that the payment pause has been “a significant investment throughout the pandemic, providing essential relief to millions of families during the economic and public health crisis, and saving borrowers an average of $393 per month.”

The lawmakers noted the impact even short-term student-loan debt relief has had.

“Borrowers have benefited greatly from the ongoing payment pause, taking the opportunity to pay down other debt, relieve financial pressures from lost jobs or decreased earnings, and support their families' needs,” they wrote. “Restarting repayment will financially destabilize many borrowers and their families, and will cause hardship for many who could not afford repayment. Most borrowers are not financially prepared to shoulder another bill as they face skyrocketing costs for necessities like food and gas.”

The signees emphasized that longer-term solutions are ultimately needed, up to and including debt cancellation, to relieve some 43 million Americans from the burden of an estimated $1.6 trillion in student loan debt. 

“As your administration works towards rebuilding a more equitable and just economy, it should use its administrative powers to address this crisis and permanently relieve the millions of borrowers struggling with this debt. Canceling a meaningful amount of student debt will provide long-term benefits to individuals and the economy, helping families buy their first homes, open a small business, or invest in their retirement. More broadly, canceling student debt would add tens of billions of dollars in GDP growth.”