President Joe Biden announced on Wednesday that he would extend the pause on student loan repayments through May ahead of the temporary policy's expiration at the end of January.
Since March 2020, tens of millions of Americans have been able to hold off making regular payments on their federal student loans thanks to a pause, put in place first by the Trump administration, in response to the pandemic.
When he became president, Biden extended the pause through September, and in August, he extended it again until Jan. 31, 2022, calling that a "final extension."
But Democrats on Capitol Hill pressured Biden to extend the pause again as the pandemic stretched on.
"We know that millions of student loan borrowers are still coping with the impacts of the pandemic and need some more time before resuming payments," Biden said in a written statement on Wednesday.
"Given these considerations, today my Administration is extending the pause on federal student loan repayments for an additional 90 days — through May 1, 2022 — as we manage the ongoing pandemic and further strengthen our economic recovery," Biden said.
"Meanwhile, the Department of Education will continue working with borrowers to ensure they have the support they need to transition smoothly back into repayment and advance economic stability for their own households and for our nation."
Biden also asked student loan borrowers "to do their part as well," including looking into public service loan forgiveness plans and exploring "options to lower your payments through income-based repayment plans."
He said Vice President Kamala Harris has been "closely focused on" the issue.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters in a press briefing on Wednesday that "as much as we know that there's been a lot of progress in the economy, we know that... millions of people across the country are still struggling with the ongoing threat of the pandemic. Many of them are student loan borrowers."
She also said the decision was not a reaction to the fact that the president's key social spending bill, "Build Back Better," lost the key support of West Virginia's Sen. Joe Manchin on Sunday.
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Ayanna Pressley released a statement applauding Biden's decision to extend the student loan payment pause.
But they also echoed their calls for Biden to go further.
"Extending the pause will help millions of Americans make ends meet, especially as we overcome the Omicron variant," they wrote.
"We continue to call on President Biden to take executive action to cancel $50,000 in student debt, which will help close the racial wealth gap for borrowers and accelerate our economic recovery."
Schumer and other congressional Democrats have been calling on Biden to use executive authority to cancel $50,000 in student debt for all borrowers.