The Biden administration announced on Wednesday a pause in student loan repayments for at least another 90 days for roughly 41 million Americans.
The repayments, which were suspended last year as part of COVID-19 relief, were set to resume on Jan. 31 but will now remain suspended until May 1, according to the Department of Education.
“This additional extension of the repayment pause will provide critical relief to borrowers who continue to face financial hardships as a result of the pandemic, and will allow our Administration to assess the impacts of Omicron on student borrowers,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement when announcing the extended pause.
Roughly $5 billion in monthly payments were suspended, according to the department.
The ongoing suspension of loan repayment was opposed by conservatives, who called it unnecessary and costly.
Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, the top Republican on the House education committee, blasted the move as a giveaway to the left. “The president is continuing to use the pandemic to push his preferred progressive policies,” she said.
Mrs. Foxx and Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, the top Republican on the Senate Education Committee, wrote to Mr. Cardona in June and urged him not to extend the pause. They said it already cost the federal government $40 billion in 2020 and a plan for resuming the repayments would be a better idea.
“Another extension of the temporary pandemic student loan benefit would be unnecessary and actively work against the interests of students and taxpayers,” they wrote.
The administration’s move was hailed by advocacy groups who have been disappointed that Mr. Biden has not canceled all student debt. With payments set to resume in just over a month, the groups were frustrated that the administration hasn’t made the announcement earlier.
“This is welcomed news as we head into 2022 with so much uncertainty surrounding the omicron variant and our economy,” said Cody Hounanian, executive director of the Student Debt Crisis Center.
The extension is the fourth for those with student loans, who have not had to make payments since Congress and President Trump gave them a break as part of the CARES Act in March 2020.
Borrowers were originally supposed to start making payments after six months, but with advocacy groups saying that borrowers were struggling financially during the pandemic, Mr. Trump extended the pause twice, through January 2021.