President Joe Biden will extend the moratorium on student loan payments through the spring as the omicron variant seethes across the U.S.
Federal student loan payments are now paused until May 1, with no interest rate or debt collection hassles. That was already the case, but the moratorium was set to expire on January 31, although many had been pressuring Biden to extend the moratorium as the lightning fast omicron variant became the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the U.S.
“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,” Biden said in a statement.
About 36 million Americans have federal student loans, totaling around $1.37 trillion. Of those, a third are either in default or delinquency. The average payment is about $400 a month.
Former President Donald Trump first put a moratorium on federal student loan payments in March of 2020, and this is the second time Biden has extended it. During his campaign, Biden promised to cancel student loan debt, but he has balked while in office, suggesting he’s unsure if he has the authority to do so. He has argued that Congress could cancel up to $10,000 of student debt.
The omicron variant accounted for a stunning 73 percent of new COVID cases, according to a CDC report from last week, replacing the delta variant as the primary novel coronavirus sweeping the country. There’s still a lot we don’t know about this variant, though early data suggests the COVID-19 booster shot is effective against it. While some early reports suggest that omicron may be less likely to lead to a severe case of COVID-19, experts caution that even a slight uptick in hospitalizations will tax a healthcare system already well past its breaking point.