Ilhan Omar cites rising COVID cases to demand Biden cancel student debt

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Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar renewed her call for President Biden to cancel student debt Wednesday, pointing to the recent increase in coronavirus cases as justification. 

"Just as cases are rising again, the eviction moratorium is ending. The student loan payment moratorium is ending," Omar wrote on Twitter. "Cancel student debt, invest in affordable housing. 

"This crisis is preventable," she added.

SURGING INFLATION COULD DERAIL ECONOMIC RECOVERY FROM PANDEMIC, IMF WARNS

Omar’s tweet comes one day after top progressive lawmakers held a press conference calling on President Biden to extend the suspension on federal student loan payments implemented during the coronavirus pandemic. 

President Biden prolonged the student loan relief program – which paused payments, interest growth and collections – through Sept. 30 upon entering office. 

But some Democrats are now calling on the administration to extend the program through March 2022, alleging the costly burden on borrowers will hinder the nation’s economic recovery, while other Democrats want Biden to eliminate huge sums of debt altogether. 

"It’s proven to be one of the most effective steps the government has taken to help Americans get through the health and economic crisis created by COVID-19," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Tuesday. 

Schumer said American student loan borrowers will pay on average $400 a month once the relief program expires.

"You’re getting back on your feet from COVID, you may have had a loss of income, you may have missed some rent payments, you may have had to put off other things," the majority leader said. "In the short term, it’s going to mean more people will struggle to recover from the pandemic."

Other Democrats on the Hill, like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., have called on the Biden administration to cancel up to $50,000 of student debt.  

Biden has said he supports canceling up to $10,000 of student debt per person but has indicated that he wants Congress to enact legislation to that effect, rather than forgiving it via executive action. 

The U.S. has seen a more than 46% increase in the number of cases reported over the last week, according to data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Communities with lower vaccination rates are seeing some of the nation’s largest spikes in new cases with the spread of the delta variant.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., echoed the demands of Schumer and Warren, arguing that Black and Brown communities, among those with the lowest vaccination rates in the U.S.,  are also unfairly impacted by student loans. 

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"The disproportionate impact of the student debt crisis is weighed heaviest on Black and Brown borrowers," Pressley said, alleging the higher rates of student loan debt in communities of color is "intentional policy violence."

"Extending this critical payment pause will provide a crucial additional layer of protection for the millions of borrowers – disproportionately women and people of color – who currently face a disastrous financial cliff," Pressley added.  

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