COLUMBUS, Ohio — As of March 2020, most federal school loan payments have been suspended due to emergency COVID-19 relief. But that could soon be in place and borrowers may have to start paying again.
What do you want to know
- Forty-three million Americans with federal student loan debt received emergency COVID-19 relief, Education Data Initiative finds
- Most federal school loan payments have been suspended since March 2020
- Relief set to expire Aug. 31, but Biden administration could extend it
- The Biden administration is also considering canceling up to $10,000 in debt for people earning less than $125,000 a year.
In 2019, Columbus resident Akii Butler earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Kent State University, racking up nearly $32,000 in school debt. He hoped to land a job as a journalist and start paying off his loans.
“I had this dream of starting my own magazine and focusing on all R&B music and different things like that,” Butler said. “So that kind of pushed me to go into that.”
But he said finding a job in his field had become a challenge because of where he lived and the limited opportunities available. So he started working in fast food restaurants like McDonalds.
“I had to defer my loans because I can’t repay those loans on a McDonalds salary,” he said. “Like my whole check would go to one loan payment.”
He said trying to pay his car loan, car insurance and other bills was enough on its own.
“I’m going to prioritize having a car and auto insurance, rather than paying off a student loan,” he said. “Because I don’t have a car to get to and from work, you really won’t see the money.”
Butler is one of nearly 43 million Americans with federal student loan debt to receive emergency COVID-19 assistance, according to Education Data Initiative. The relief is due to expire on August 31, but the Biden administration may extend it.
Even though Butler now earns more than $50,000 a year, he said an extension is something he desperately needs.
“My biggest fear is that I’m probably going to default, which then makes me feel like maybe I need to put them on forbearance and put them off again until I make enough money or I be able to pay for it,” he said. .
Not only is the Biden administration considering an extension, but it’s also writing off up to $10,000 in debt for people earning less than $125,000 a year.
“I appreciate the $10,000, don’t get me wrong, I do,” he said. “Because it helps. But I don’t want them to just write off $10,000 and nothing be done, or nothing put in place to deal with interest rates and things like that.
The Biden administration is expected to address the loan situation in an announcement on Wednesday.