Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona delivers remarks to reporters at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. Photo by Sarah Silbiger/UPI | License Photo
Aug. 6 (UPI) -- The Education Department on Friday extended federal student loan relief through Jan. 31, giving Americans another four months of no payments or interest.
The pause on payments was first enacted by the Trump administration in March 2020 to help those economically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The department said the additional time will give borrowers time to plan for resuming payments, reducing delinquencies and defaults after the restart.
"The payment pause has been a lifeline that allowed millions of Americans to focus on their families, health, and finances instead of student loans during the national emergency," Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said.
"As our nation's economy continues to recover from a deep hole, this final extension will give students and borrowers the time they need to plan for restart and ensure a smooth pathway back to repayment. It is the department's priority to support students and borrowers during this transition and ensure they have the resources they need to access affordable, high quality higher education."
The Biden administration has faced calls from some lawmakers to cancel student debt entirely or partially. White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced in February President Joe Biden asked the Justice Department to review whether he had the legal authority to do so.
In a statement Friday, Biden said the pause on repayment means Americans won't have to choose between paying off debt or paying for necessities during the pandemic.
"As today's jobs numbers show, we have the tools that will allow us to beat COVID-19 and keep our economy recovering at a record rate. But we know there is more work to do and the road will still be long for many people -- especially for the one in six adults and one in three young people who have federal student loans," he said.
Student loan debt in the United States reached more than $1.7 trillion at the end of 2020, according to the Education Department.