The Biden administration is planning to restart monthly federal student loan payments early next year when a pandemic pause on monthly payments for tens of millions of Americans ends, Politico reported.
Citing documents and unnamed sources, Politico reported the federal Education Department is eyeing proposals to give borrowers new flexibility as they face student loan bills for the first time in nearly two years.
Officials are also looking at policies to make it easier for borrowers to stay enrolled in income-based repayment programs and avoid a sudden increase in their monthly payment amount. And the administration is considering a plan to expunge the defaults of borrowers who were struggling even before the pandemic, the news outlet reported.
The plans are aimed at averting a potential surge in delinquencies when payments resume in February — a timeline the administration announced in August, Politico reported.
Restarting the federal government’s $1.6 trillion student lending apparatus after it’s been mostly frozen for nearly two years is an unprecedented logistical challenge for the Education Department, Politico reported.
It’s also full of political pitfalls; progressives are urging the administration to focus on widespread debt forgiveness rather than resuming payments.
More than 40 million federal student loan borrowers have benefited from the Education Department’s pause on interest and monthly payments that began in March 2020. The Biden administration extended the relief through the end of January.
According to Politico, internal documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act outline specifics of the department’s “return to repayment” strategy.
“In recognition of the historic impact of a nearly two-year pause in student loan payments, borrowers will be allowed additional flexibility in the early stages of the return to repayment,” the department wrote in one of the documents.
According to Politico, Education Department officials have instructed their loan servicers to create a “safety net” for borrowers in the first three months after their first payment is due next year.
The Education Department is also planning outreach to certain “at-risk” borrowers, and the agency has increased the call center hours of its loan servicers, the news outlet reported. Officials are also discussing proposals to make it easier for borrowers to enroll in income-based repayment programs.
In addition, the Education Department is weighing a plan to automatically pull more than 7 million borrowers out of default on their federal student loans — an effort referred to as “Operation Fresh Start,” Politico reported.
Some Democrats are pressing the Biden administration to use executive authority to cancel up to $50,000 of outstanding federal student loan debt per borrower. Biden has said he's more comfortable with a figure closer to $10,000, Politico reported, adding the White House has said it's still deciding whether it even has the power to cancel large amounts of debt using executive action.
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