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Pause On Student Loan Payments Extended Until May 1

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Some good news for 41 million Americans on Wednesday, as President Joe Biden extended the moratorium on student loan repayment for 90 days.

Under the CARES Act passed in 2020, the pause in student loan repayment was supposed to expire in 2021, but twice President Biden has intervened to extend that. And three days before Christmas, he did it again, giving millions of Americans until May 1 to start repaying their student loans.

With the pandemic still going on, President Biden was under pressure from many to extend the Jan. 31 deadline before student loans payments would start up again.

Led by U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb, all nine Democratic congressmen from Pennsylvania signed a letter urging the president to extend the deadline.

In this state, the average student loan debt is $32,000.

Alyssa Dobson, past president of the state's Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators who now administers student aid at Slippery Rock University, joined Lamb in hailing the president's extension, particularly for helping lower-income families still struggling during the pandemic.

"It's wonderful news," Dobson told KDKA money editor Jon Delano on Wednesday. "When I saw that come through via press release from the Department of Education, I was just ecstatic for our students and our families."

"It's great news," Lamb said. "They're doing the right thing. This is a very important issue for Pennsylvania student loan payers. We actually have the second-highest student loan debt of any state in the whole country here in Pennsylvania. Our people are more in debt."

"To be clear about what's going on. People hear this and think we're forgiving everyone's debt. We're not doing that. This is just a pause," added Lamb.

Dobson said the delay is warranted.

"There's a lot of uncertainty, a lot of confusion, and, quite frankly, an inability to pay at the levels they used to be at prior to the pause in repayment," she noted.

"The people we represent – they're not asking for much. They just need a little bit of help," Lamb said.

"The United States government is the creditor here on these student loans. We can afford to treat our own people fairly. We're not really giving them anything for free, but we're making sure they have decent terms on which to repay these loans."

Under existing authority, the president has canceled student loans for those misled or cheated by their colleges or who have permanent disabilities, but loan forgiveness for all loans is unlikely.

Biden campaigned on forgiving the first $10,000 of student loans, but Congress hasn't given him authority to do that yet. Still, one program Biden is fixing could help many.

"I am someone who has fought hard to try to make sure we do a good job forgiving student loans for people who are in public service," says Lamb.

"That's a program we already have on the books for 10 years, but the federal government is terrible executing it. People who spend 10 years in public service are supposed to get the rest of their student loans forgiven, and almost none of them do."

Under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, if you work full-time for the government, a government agency, including the military, or for a non-profit organization, you may be eligible for some loan forgiveness.

But until recent changes made by the Biden administration, 98 percent of applicants were getting rejected for loan forgiveness. That should change, says Dobson.

"I am highly encouraged with the temporary program that's in place because it does fix many, maybe even all, of the broken pieces that were before," Dobson said.

Again, this is an existing law that was never fully implemented.

As for other student loans, some lawmakers argue that the president has executive authority to simply cancel or forgive them. As popular as that action might be, so far, neither President Biden nor his predecessors thought they had the power to do that.

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