WASHINGTON — President Biden, citing the pandemic, said on Wednesday that his administration had extended a moratorium on student loan repayments by 90 days, continuing a relief measure that began nearly two years ago under the Trump administration.
“While our jobs recovery is one of the strongest ever — with nearly 6 million jobs added this year,” Mr. Biden said in a statement, “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.”
The extension affects about 41 million borrowers, including nearly 27 million who haven’t been paying their monthly bill since early in 2020.
Since his first days in office, Mr. Biden has been pressured by Democratic lawmakers who have urged him to deliver on a campaign promise of wiping $10,000 per person holding federal student loan debt. Mr. Biden has so far resisted that measure and other more ambitious calls from lawmakers, including Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, who has asked the president to forgive as much as $50,000 through executive action.
The pause has frozen interest accruals on tens of millions of loans. And about 7.2 million borrowers who were in default got a reprieve from collections.
The so-called administrative forbearance was initially put in place as part of the CARES Act in March 2020, and was later extended by then-President Donald J. Trump. When Mr. Biden took office in January, he pushed the date back to Sept. 30 and then in August, he pushed it back ““one final time” to Jan. 31.
Even so, the kind of sweeping forgiveness that many progressives and activists sought has remained elusive. In recent months, their pleas have gone unanswered by Mr. Biden, who has said he has been reluctant to explore executive action to forgive large amounts of student loan debt, lest that relief go to people attending elite colleges. But this week, Kamala Harris, the vice president, spoke publicly about the need to provide relief to borrowers.
“I had student loans,” Ms. Harris said during an interview with the radio host Charlamagne tha God. “I mean, look, right now, we have so many people, tens of millions of people in the United States who are dealing with student loan debt and responsibilities, and it’s standing in the way of them being able to start a family or buy a home, and it is real, and we need to deal with it.”
On Wednesday, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said that conversations with advisers, including Ms. Harris, had led to Mr. Biden’s decision to extend the moratorium. Ms. Psaki said that the president’s endangered social spending plan was not the main reason for the student loan extension.
“This is something the president has thought a lot about over the past several days,” Ms. Psaki said, adding that conversations with Ms. Harris “led to the decision to extend until May.”
Activists praised the administration’s decision.
“The Biden administration has thrown a lifeline to student loan borrowers in the face of economic and public health reality,” said Mike Pierce, executive director of the Student Borrower Protection Center. “This was a necessary action for borrowers to be able to stay afloat.