Congressional Democrats say Biden’s plan for student debt relief requires further improvements

Several congressional Democrats are pushing for the Education Department to extend negotiations in order to provide more relief for student loans. This comes after President Joe Biden’s initial plan was rebuked by the Supreme Court.

In an exclusive letter obtained by USA TODAY, lawmakers are urging Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to hold a fourth session of negotiations, following three sessions that took place last fall.

Lawmakers are concerned that if the administration moves forward with a new plan without gathering more input, some borrowers may be left out of the much-needed relief.

The lawmakers acknowledge the department’s efforts but believe that without considering a wider range of borrowers facing various financial struggles, the proposed rule will not adequately provide debt relief to the most vulnerable borrowers.

The letter has been signed by influential figures such as Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., as well as Senators Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. Democrats from both chambers of Congress have supported this request, which is scheduled to be sent to Cardona on Thursday.

Last week, a coalition of 67 borrower advocacy groups also made similar demands. They urged the department not to let bureaucratic processes and timelines hinder the much-needed relief for the American people.

In response to these concerns, the Education Department affirmed its commitment to providing student debt relief promptly and for as many borrowers as possible.

During the last round of negotiations in December, members of a federal committee representing borrowers, servicers, and colleges expressed frustration. The agency declined to further consider relief options for borrowers facing unique hardships outside the scope of the existing student loan system. Some negotiators viewed this as a missed opportunity and were disappointed that the department didn’t take a broader approach.

While officials mentioned a potential extension of the negotiations, they did not make any concrete promises at the time.

“We understand your desire for unlimited relief and a more comprehensive approach,” said Tamy Abernathy, a policy coordinator for the agency, during the December meeting. “However, we may have differences of opinion.”

Although adding another negotiation session is not uncommon, it could potentially introduce further delays to the Education Department’s goal of implementing broad-based student loan forgiveness before the presidential election in November. The department aims to finalize a proposal by May.

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