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Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has announced an extension of pandemic relief for student loan borrowers. Some 41 million federal borrowers would have been required to resume payments at the end of the year, and now it'll be the end of January. NPR's Elissa Nadworny reports.
ELISSA NADWORNY, BYLINE: Most borrowers with federal student loans haven't had to make payments and their loans haven't been collecting interest since March. That's thanks to the CARES Act. President Trump extended that relief through December 31, just weeks before President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration. But with DeVos's latest action, the moratorium will continue for one extra month, with payments resuming in February.
SARAH SATTELMEYER: One of the most important things for borrowers is consistency. And this will certainly provide consistency through to a new administration.
NADWORNY: That's Sarah Sattelmeyer, who studies student borrowers at The Pew Charitable Trusts. Her biggest concern is making sure borrowers understand how to navigate upcoming changes.
SATTELMEYER: A lot of people are confused, and that's hugely problematic.
NADWORNY: Her research has found many borrowers are struggling financially due to the pandemic and would have trouble affording payments when the relief expires. The move from DeVos does provide borrowers and the loan servicers who work with them a bit more time to get their ducks in a row.
SCOTT BUCHANAN: But we still have the question that remains of what happens after January 31.
NADWORNY: That's Scott Buchanan of the Student Loan Servicing Alliance.
BUCHANAN: The federal student loan system was designed to sort of handle the volume of steady state, but it was never designed to have demands of dealing with one issue 30 million times.
NADWORNY: For borrowers, that might mean long hold times in January when they're trying to call their loan servicer. Buchanan recommends calling now to get ahead of that rush and to find more information about payment plans or dates or how much your monthly payments are. There is still the possibility of more policy changes when it comes to pandemic loan relief. Congress could offer another extension through legislation. And when Biden takes office, he could issue his own relief plan.
Elissa Nadworny, NPR News.
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