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Education Department Announces 'Final Extension' of Student Loan Payment Freeze

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Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona answers questions during the daily briefing at the White House Aug. 5, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Cardona answered a range of questions related to children returning to school in the fall.  (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The U.S. Department of Education announced that federal student loan payments will remain on pause through the end of January.

Loan payments, interest accruals and collections of defaulted federal student loans have all been on hold since the start of the pandemic — first thanks to the CARES Act, then due to extensions from former President Donald Trump, former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and President Biden.

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Before Friday's announcement of the Jan. 31 extension, payments were set to resume in October.

The Education Department called this latest extension the final one.

"The payment pause has been a lifeline that allowed millions of Americans to focus on their families, health, and finances instead of student loans during the national emergency," U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a news release. "As our nation's economy continues to recover from a deep hole, this final extension will give students and borrowers the time they need to plan for restart and ensure a smooth pathway back to repayment."

In a Pew Charitable Trusts survey conducted this spring, when the moratorium was still set to expire on Sept. 30, two-thirds of respondents said they'd have a tough time affording payments once the freeze was lifted.

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Democratic lawmakers — including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. — had previously urged the Biden administration to extend the moratorium through at least March.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit npr.org.

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