On the same day former President Barack Obama made his first trip to the White House since leaving office, news came out that the Biden administration is planning to extend its student loan repayment moratorium until Aug. 31. The extension, first reported Tuesday by Bloomberg, has not been officially announced by the administration.
Student loan payments were scheduled to resume May 1 after being halted since early in the pandemic. Before that, it looked like the moratorium was going to end at the end of January.
The action applies to more than 43 million Americans who owe a combined $1.6 trillion in student debt held by the federal government, according to the latest data from the Education Department. The move comes amid rising concern that large numbers of Americans would quickly fall behind if payments restarted in May.
It remains in question whether Biden will pursue widespread debt forgiveness to reduce the nation’s student debt. Some Democrats in Congress have pressed Biden to use executive action to cancel $50,000 for all student loan borrowers, saying it would jumpstart the economy and help Black Americans who on average face higher levels of student debt.
It was not student loans but Obama’s signature healthcare law that had him returning to the White House for the first time since leaving office in 2017.
“If you can get millions of people health coverage and better protection, it is, to quote a famous American, a pretty big deal,” Obama said to hoots of laughter from the crowd, referencing an off-color Biden remark picked up by a hot mic when the law was signed.
The former president was on hand as Biden unveiled a measure to fix an element of the healthcare law known as the “family glitch” that left family members of those with access to employer-provided health plans ineligible for certain subsidies.
While Obama remains a popular figure, Biden faces moribund public approval ratings thanks in part to high inflation and the lingering COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, Democrats face the risk of losing control of at least one, if not both, chambers of Congress in November, which would bring Biden’s legislative agenda to a halt.