United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y), and United States Representatives Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), and Katie Porter (D-Calif.) led more than 80 Senate and House colleagues calling on the Biden administration to release the Department of Education’s (ED) memo outlining the administration’s legal authority to cancel federal student loan debt and immediately cancel up to $50,000 of debt for Federal student loan borrowers.
“Canceling $50,000 of student debt would give 36 million Americans permanent relief and aid the millions more who will eventually resume payments their best chance at thriving in our recovering economy. In light of high COVID-19 case counts and corresponding economic disruptions, restarting student loan payments without this broad cancellation would be disastrous for millions of borrowers and their families,” wrote the lawmakers in a letter to President Joe Biden.
While the lawmakers applauded President Biden’s decision to extend the federal student loan payment pause as the Omicron variant spreads, they are urging the President to do more to provide permanent relief for millions of borrowers and help families avoid financial hardship as the economy recovers.
During the payment pause, borrowers have been able to use their student loan payments to pay down other debt, support their families, and make ends meet. Once the pause ends, over a quarter of borrowers expect at least one-third of their income will go towards student loans — and $85 billion would be stripped from the national economy over the next year.
Canceling $50,000 of student loan debt per borrower would help millions of Americans afford homes and access important paths to the middle class, help narrow the racial and gender wealth gap in Black and Brown communities that have been exacerbated by discriminatory policies and systemic barriers, increase borrowers’ ability to retire, and support a strong economic recovery.
The lawmakers say that President Biden has the legal authority to cancel student debt under section 432(a) of the Higher Education Act of 1965. In April 2021, the White House promised to release their own memo on their ability to cancel student debt through administrative action but they have yet to publicly release the details of the memo.
The lawmakers continued: “Publicly releasing the memo outlining your existing authority on canceling student debt and broadly doing so is crucial to making a meaningful difference in the lives of current students, borrowers, and their families. It has been widely reported that the Department of Education has had this memo since April 5, 2021 after being directed to draft it.
We urge you to use every tool at your disposal to deliver relief to the millions of families inspired by your proposal to make a debt-free college degree within their reach by eliminating up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt for all families before payments resume.”