The Biden administration is “preparing to restart” federal student loan debt payments following the end of the coronavirus pandemic emergency, the Education Secretary said, though he did not publicly share details of the support borrowers would receive. with the transition.

Miguel Cardona’s comments came during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing Thursday in which he was asked why the federal government supported alumni loan forgiveness while arguing that it must keep its consecutive debt commitments above the ceiling. of debt.

The Education Department stated in November that payments would resume 60 days after June 30 of this year after eight extensions, if the dispute over the loan forgiveness program is not resolved sooner.

The Supreme Court is currently reviewing lower court orders blocking certain elements of the program, which used legislation passed in the aftermath of 9/11 to allow Cardona to make changes to the federal student loan system during a national emergency.

Senate Appropriations Hearing Miguel Cardona
US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona appears at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing to review the President’s FY 2024 funding request and budget justification for the Department of Education on Capitol Hill in Washington DC on May 11, 2023.
US Senate Appropriations Committee

While the Biden administration argues it acted within the law, with the pandemic counting as a national emergency, House Republicans say it exploited legislation written to help service members and veterans.

During a hearing on the president’s 2024 funding request and the Education Department’s budget justification, Katie Britt, a freshman Republican senator from Alabama, cited comments Monday by White House press secretary Karine Jean- Pierre, who said that in the context of the debt ceiling: “If you buy a car, you are expected to pay the monthly payments. If you buy a house, you are expected to pay the mortgage every month. That is the expectation.”

Britt asked Cardona if he agreed with the statement, to which he replied: “I agree [with] yes indeed.”

The Republican senator later said she believed “that same logic should apply to student loans.”

“We agree and we are preparing to restart the payment because the emergency period is over and we are preparing our borrowers to restart,” Cardona responded.

He added that the HEROES Act “gives me an opportunity to create a waiver for those who are significantly impacted by the pandemic, much like small businesses last year, where Congress provided a little bit of support.”

Britt then referenced recent reports that student loan servicers could stop charging interest on federal loans until September; that the requirement to make a payment may be delayed until October 1; and that a “safety net” period would be put in place, preventing borrowers from being penalized for non-payment.

Asked if these were proposals the Department of Education was considering, Cardona declined to comment publicly on details, but said: “We recognize that after three years of payments on hold during two administrations, the restart of payments will be a This is a very important step, and we want to make sure it’s done right.

Katie Britt Senate Appropriations
Alabama Republican Senator Katie Britt questions the Secretary of Education about the Biden administration’s student loan forgiveness program during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing at the US Capitol in Washington DC on 11 May 2023.
US Senate Appropriations Committee

“We are confident that targeted debt relief will address some of the concerns of some of our borrowers who are struggling right now, but as they come back into paying, it’s really important that we support them,” he added.

news week reached out to the Department of Education by email for further comment on Friday.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the legality of the program sometime this summer, with refunds starting again 60 days after its ruling if it comes before June 30.

The Department of Education said in November that 26 million people had provided it with the information required to be considered for the program, 16 million of whom had been approved.

However, injunctions the Supreme Court was now considering had prevented it from accepting additional applicants and forgiving student debt entirely. Under the scheme, those with an income of less than $125,000 per year who received a Pell Grant while studying were offered a cancellation of up to $20,000 of their debt.

Meanwhile, Republican senators moved to implement a resolution in March to strike down the debt-forgiveness program regardless of the Supreme Court’s opinion. Britt was one of the original co-sponsors of the joint resolution.

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