The ultimate pressure campaign to cancel student loans

As the White House sweats over soaring milk, bread and gas prices, tens of millions of Americans are bracing for an even bigger impact on their budgets: the return of student loan debt. .

That is, unless the administration moves to cancel those debts first.

Payments for federal student loans have been halted and interest rates set to 0% since the CARES Act was passed in March 2020. After many renewals, they were set to resume in September 2021, but the final extension allows the pause to continue until January 2022. That’s a substantial financial relief for almost 45 million people with student loans holding more than $1.7 trillion in student loans across the country.

But come February, payments will start again. And activists hope there is enough time left to mount a pressure campaign on the administration to cancel student debt before payments can resume.

Organizers argued that after more than a year of no payments, people were “too used to federal student loans being paused” and feared their loan payments would eat up. wear off newly acquired benefits like the child tax credit, says Braxton Brewington, press secretary for The Debt Collective.

“I can’t imagine what January will be like in the next 30 days when people are like, ‘Okay, I got 12 emails from the Department of Education… This can’t really happen,’” he said. added.

Cody Hounanian, executive director of the Student Debt Crisis Center, told The Daily Beast that the lack of student loan payments has allowed people to “participate fully in the economy, which cannot be ignored.” more important right now as we are trying to recover the country from the pandemic. “

“We’ve heard from first-time borrowers that can buy a home. We’ve heard from borrowers that for the first time they can buy a car to take them to work… It’s a boon for their family. It’s a boon to their community,” Hounanian commented.

Both groups said they organized to try to push lawmakers toward progress toward canceling student debt before payments return. Some of Congress’ most outspoken Democrats joined in, calling on Biden to act through executive power as soon as possible.

“As we continue to recover from this pandemic, people need help. Passing the Rebuild Better Act is an important step but much work remains to be done. It’s time to cancel student debt of at least $50,000 per borrower and help people get the relief they need,” said Congressional Radical Caucasus Council President Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) tweeted last week.

And while the $50,000 bailout figure has strong supporters like Jayapal, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), the White House has kept steady at the $10,000 per borrower Biden promised during the campaign. Furthermore, the administration has maintained an extension of the debt moratorium through executive action in his jurisdiction on the matter. may go.

“On the first, first day of his administration, he directed the Department of Education to extend the moratorium on student loan payments and interest for millions of Americans,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. federal student loans,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in February. “It is a step he has taken through executive action, but he certainly supports the efforts of members of Congress to take additional steps and he will look forward to signing it. “.

Earlier this year, Biden said he did not believe he could unilaterally cancel student loans and ask for a memo from the Department of Education in the spring about what the law enforcement agency he has on the matter.

That April 5 memo later obtained by The Debt Collective passed a public records request, but only the subject of the mandate—“Secretary of Laws for Broad-Based Debt Cancellation”—was displayed. The rest of the memo has been heavily redacted, leaving almost no content available to the public.

However, other members argued that cuts to the Better Rebuild Act were a justification for pushing the administration to cancel outstanding student loans.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) wrote in a Instagram Stories 28, with the shortening of the Better Rebuilding Act, there are “more opportunities than ever to bring the heat to Biden to cancel student loans.”

“He doesn’t need [Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-WV)] allow that and now that his agenda has been sliced ​​thin, he needs to step up his executive action game and demonstrate his commitment to giving back to the people,” she added.

Biden’s social spending package, which passed the House of Representatives on November 19, does not include a plan to deal with student loans — and removes a provision to make community college free.

The American Civil Liberties Union told The Daily Beast that while the Biden administration “has not done enough to relieve the millions of Americans who are burdened by the student debt crisis,” the $50,000 cancellation la can be a means of bridging the racial wealth gap, with student loans disproportionately affecting Black and Latino communities.

The ACLU is working on an initiative request to cancel $50,000 in student debt for each borrower, which currently has more than 36,000 signatures.

Campaign weapons for Schumer, Delegate Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Jayapal, in addition to groups like the ACLU, have over the past few months launched Paid advertising campaign on social media regarding student debt cancellation in order to increase public pressure for action on the issue.

“If President Biden and his Administration can halt student loans, they can cancel them – and there has never been a more important time for bold action,” said one. November ad from Pressley’s team.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also stressed that student debt cancellation would need to be done through legislation, which is likely to cause a deadlock between the narrowly divided parties of Congress.

“People think that the President of the United States has the power to clear debt. He is not. He can delay. He can delay. But he doesn’t have that power,” Pelosi said during the summer.

However, the administration still cites some progress on student debt this year through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, established by Congress in 2007 to entice graduates into the workforce. public service roles such as teaching or law enforcement in exchange for having their school debt paid back after 10 years. of job.

But the program has been plagued by unscrupulous rules and often high rejection rates for applicants. In October, the government released a series of patchwork fixes which supporters applauded.

The Biden administration has also issued several rounds of forgiveness for students scammed by for-profit schools like ITT Tech and Corinthian Colleges, in addition to notification that 323,000 individuals who are filing for disability with the Social Security Administration will also have their student debt canceled.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten told The Daily Beast she has witnessed first-hand how individuals react when their student debt drops to zero through federal programs.

“Joy and relief can be felt,” she said.

But Weingarten, another advocate for cancellation of up to $50,000 in student debt, notes that with public service debt forgiveness, Biden is inheriting a broken program. Extensive student debt cancellation will be a whole new system. “I think the important thing to do is very important, you know, it’s a big policy decision,” she said.

Weingarten suggests that creating a program to erase all U.S. student debt would be a timely move — and unlikely to provide immediate gratification for borrowers.

“I think there’s going to have to be some expectations set… It’s going to take them a while to make sure this is done properly,” she said. Weingarten suspects the urgency will only hinge on the broader issue of student debt as the February cliff approaches.

And among the activists calling for the $50,000 to be cancelled, there are still some calling for the administration to cancel it all.

Brewington said The Debt Collective was among them, telling The Daily Beast, “We’re never going to go down from the bottom of all…. Those numbers are arbitrary and don’t really mean anything.” The ultimate pressure campaign to cancel student loans


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