There were likely millions of people mired in student debt who exhaled a collective sigh of relief on Wednesday after President Joe Biden announced he would make sure federal loan payments would be deferred for another few months. But he also said his decision would delay the inevitable resumption of payments on the more than $1.7 trillion owed by people who took out loans to further their education.
As the omicron variant of COVID-19 rages around the country and inflation sends prices soaring, Biden said on Wednesday, “millions of student loan borrowers are still coping with the impacts of the pandemic and need some more time before resuming payments.”
Previously set to expire at the end of next month, the moratorium will now stay paused until May 1, Biden said.
Biden effectively not only deferred those debt payments — for which people were grateful — but he also further deferred his presidential campaign promise to cancel student debt to the tune of a minimum amount of $10,000 per person, something whose glaring absence has caused a bit of lingering umbrage among those expecting the president to make good on his word.
Perhaps the group of borrowers most impacted by the moratorium extension is Black people, who, data shows, have the most need for federal student loans while also having the most difficulty repaying them, facts that are due in no small part to the lingering racial wealth gap that hasn’t been shrinking.
For perspective, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has been a champion of canceling student debt, said earlier this year, “Cancelling student loan debt would help close the Black-white, wealth gap by 28 points for African Americans and by a similar number for Latinos.”
Considering how Black voters — Black women, in particular — are widely credited for securing Biden’s election, his inaction on actually canceling student debt may not be forgotten when the 2024 election rolls around.
New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said as much last week when she tweeted that it would be “delusional to believe Dems can get re-elected without acting on” student debt and other pressing issues that Democratic voters want to see prioritized by Biden’s administration.
The argument to cancel student loan debt ramped up amidst the global pandemic where Black and brown borrowers, in particular, have suffered tremendously and disproportionately, accumulating a majority of the nation’s student loan debt.
Prior to Biden’s inauguration, 325 organizations re-released a signed letter asking the Biden-Harris administration to consider canceling student debt.