Biden: Nearly 22M have already requested student loan relief

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President Joe Biden waves to students as he arrives to speak about student loan debt relief at Delaware State University, Friday, Oct. 21, 2022, in Dover, Del. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

DOVER, Del. – President Joe Biden said Friday that nearly 22 million people have applied for federal student loan relief in the week since his administration made its online application available — more than half of the number the White House believes are eligible for the program.

Later Friday, though, a federal appeals court issued an administrative stay temporarily blocking Biden’s loan cancellation plan. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals issued the stay while it considers a motion from six Republican-led states to stop the program.

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Speaking at Delaware State University, a historically Black university where the majority of students receive federal Pell Grants, Biden touted the first-week statistics since the application was beta-launched last Friday. He officially unveiled it at the White House on Monday.

Biden’s plan calls for $10,000 in federal student debt cancellation for those with incomes below $125,000 a year, or households that make less than $250,000 a year. Those who received federal Pell Grants to attend college are eligible for an additional $10,000. The plan makes 20 million eligible to get their federal student debt erased entirely.

Biden highlighted the ease of the application, which doesn't require users to upload any forms or to create an account.

“Folks, it takes less than 5 minutes,” Biden said. He said the “vast majority” of applicants are able to submit for relief from their phones.

It’s unclear what the appeals court decision means for the 22 million borrowers who already applied for the relief. The Biden administration had promised not to clear any debt before Oct. 23 as it battled the legal challenges, but the soonest it was expected to begin erasing debt was mid-November.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre pointed out in a statement Friday night that the stay does not prevent borrowers from applying for relief, and it “does not prevent us from reviewing these applications and preparing them for transmission to loan servicers.”

“It is also important to note that the order does not reverse the trial court’s dismissal of the case, or suggest that the case has merit,” Jean-Pierre added.

Biden blasted Republicans who have criticized his relief program, saying “their outrage is wrong and it’s hypocritical." He added, “I don’t want to hear it from MAGA Republican officials” who had millions of debt and pandemic relief loans forgiven, naming GOP lawmakers like Reps. Vern Buchanan and Marjorie Taylor Greene, who received loan forgiveness, and Sen. Ted Cruz, who called some beneficiaries of student loans ”slackers."

Asked Biden, “Who the hell do they think they are?”

After the appeals court stay, NAACP President Derrick Johnson also called critics “hypocritical.”

“When we bail out billion-dollar corporations, it’s never an issue,” Johnson said. “But when it comes to lifting people who need the help most, including Pell Grant recipients — 51% of which go to students whose families earn less than $20,000 a year — somehow it becomes an issue.”

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