The Trump administration on Friday suspended all federal student loan payments through the end of January and kept interest rates at 0 percent, extending a moratorium that started early in the pandemic but was set to expire at the end of this month, the Associated Press reported. By extending payments by one month, the administration is effectively leaving it to the Biden administration or Congress to decide whether to provide longer-term relief to millions of student borrowers. The measure was included in a March relief package and the White House extended it in August, but its fate was in doubt amid stalemate over a new relief bill. In announcing the extension, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rebuked Congress for failing to act. “The added time also allows Congress to do its job and determine what measures it believes are necessary and appropriate,” DeVos said in a statement. “The Congress, not the Executive Branch, is in charge of student loan policy.” Under the measure, students will not be required to make payments, their loans will not accrue interest and all collection activity will halt until the end of January. Last month, the American Council on Education and dozens of other higher education associations urged DeVos to extend the relief, saying that the recent surge in COVID-19 cases would likely lead to even more economic turmoil. President-elect Joe Biden has not directly addressed the moratorium but on Tuesday called for immediate relief including “relief from rent and student loans.” He has also supported proposals to erase up to $10,000 in student debt for all borrowers as part of a future virus relief package.
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