U.S. President Joe Biden speaks as Miguel Cardona, U.S. secretary of education, listens on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., on October 18. The Biden administration said student loan payments will be paused through May. File Photo byAl Drago/UPI | License Photo
Dec. 22 (UPI) -- The Biden administration on Wednesday extended its moratorium on federal student loan payments through May, giving Americans another four months of no payments or interest amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pause on payments was first enacted by the Trump administration in March 2020 to assist those economically impacted by the pandemic.
President Joe Biden said the pause has given millions of Americans "badly needed breathing room."
"We know that millions of student loan borrowers are still coping with the impacts of the pandemic and need some more time before resuming payments," he said in a statement.
"Meanwhile, the Department of Education will continue working with borrowers to ensure they have the support they need to transition smoothly back into repayment and advance economic stability for their own households and for our nation."
Payments were set to resume in February and Biden had faced calls from Democrats seeking not just to extend the moratorium, but to cancel student debt.
"It's good he extended the pause on student loan payments amid Omicron -- now he needs to cancel student debt to help close the racial wealth gap and provide relief to so many," Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer tweeted Wednesday.
"Grateful the administration has heeded our calls to extend this critical lifeline, which will help millions make ends meet while we overcome Omicron," Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., added.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced in February that Biden asked the Justice Department to review whether he had the legal authority to cancel student debt.
Student loan debt in the United States reached more than $1.7 trillion at the end of 2020, according to the Education Department.