President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. renewed his calls on Friday for Congress and President Trump “to act and act now” to boost the sagging economic recovery, while expressing confidence that further economic pain will bring lawmakers back to the negotiating table for an additional round of aid after he takes office in January.
Speaking in Delaware, Mr. Biden thanked the Republican and Democratic senators who are attempting to negotiate a $908 billion compromise package for the lame-duck session, saying: “This situation is urgent. If we don’t act now, the future will be very bleak.”
The stimulus proposal under discussion would send nearly $300 billion in new aid to small businesses, $180 billion to unemployed workers and $160 billion to state, local and tribal governments suffering revenue shortfalls in the pandemic.
He went on to urge lawmakers to come back for another wave of assistance after Inauguration Day, in part to help hasten the deployment of a coronavirus vaccine. Mr. Biden also said it will be important for lawmakers to pass more sweeping legislation to address longstanding needs in the economy, like rebuilding infrastructure.
“To truly end this crisis, Congress is going to need to fund more testing as well as a more equitable and free distribution of the vaccine,” Mr. Biden said. “We’re going to need more economic relief to bridge through 2021 until this pandemic and economic crisis are over.”
The Labor Department released a jobs report on Friday showing that the economy added fewer jobs in November than at any point since it began to rebound from recession in the spring. The figures disappointed forecasters and added new urgency to calls to buoy struggling workers and companies while the nation awaits a vaccine that could help reinvigorate the economy next year.
Pointing to the lower-than-expected job gains as an added accelerant, Speaker Nancy Pelosi flashed hope about a stimulus plan at a news conference in the Capitol on Friday morning, a day after she and Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, agreed to try to find an agreement that could be merged with an enormous year-end spending package.
“That would be our hope because that is the vehicle leaving the station,” said Ms. Pelosi, Democrat of California, while insisting that there would be “sufficient time” to close a deal before the Dec. 11 government funding deadline.
Officials at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the conservative business lobbying group, said on Friday that the jobs report was a warning to lawmakers that they must compromise quickly. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, said in a statement that the report was a “blaring warning that a double-dip recession is looming.”
Taking questions from reporters after his speech, Mr. Biden avoided answering whether he had spoken with Mr. McConnell about negotiations over an aid package. But he said he believed that Republicans would see a need to work with his administration to pass another package this winter, because, he said, “The country’s going to be in dire, dire, dire straits if they don’t.”
Republicans, he said, are “going to find that there’s an overwhelming need as these numbers skyrocket.”
Vice President Mike Pence appeared at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta Friday and said the nation was facing a “challenging time” but also “a season of hope,” with the approval of the first coronavirus vaccine coming as soon as next week.
“Thank you to the men and women of C.D.C. who have literally poured their lives over the last 10 months into saving lives across America,” said Mr. Pence, who wore a mask during the visit.
But with the virus now in its darkest phase — and hospitalizations and daily caseloads shattering records — the White House remains largely silent on the devastation being wrought around the country and continues to do little to amplify guidance from the C.D.C. that could help stem the spread.
And while Mr. Pence sought to offer an upbeat assessment, Dr. Henry Walke, who directs the C.D.C.’s Division of Preparedness and Emerging Infections, presented a far more sobering picture.
“Hospitalizations are still rising and it’s a real problem,” he said. “Health care providers are overstressed, beds are full.”
The C.D.C. issued new guidance on Friday urging state and local governments to put forth universal face mask directives in indoor settings outside the home, among other measures in the agency’s first comprehensive list of strategies for combating the coronavirus. The agency also called for increased access to testing and quarantine for those who are exposed.
The vice president, who is the head of the White House virus response, made the stop on the way to a political rally in Savannah with Georgia’s two embattled Republican senators, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue — both of whom are in tough runoff races next month that will determine the balance of power in the Senate. The two, also wearing masks, joined Mr. Pence for a round table discussion with C.D.C. officials.
Mr. Pence’s C.D.C. visit comes ahead of a “vaccine summit” at the White House on Tuesday featuring him, President Trump, government officials and industry workers. Two days later, a committee of outside experts will convene to make recommendations to the Food and Drug Administration about whether to grant emergency approval to Pfizer’s vaccine.
After his visit to the C.D.C., Mr. Pence and the senators will head to Savannah for the rally. The ticketing site for the event makes no mention of masks but includes a disclaimer that attendees “assume all risks related to exposure to Covid-19.”
It is not uncommon for senators to accompany administration officials who travel in their states. But given the proximity to the runoff elections, the senators’ participation drew criticism from their Democratic opponents, the Rev. Raphael Warnock, who is running against Ms. Loeffler, and Jon Ossoff, who is challenging Mr. Perdue.
“No photo opp is going to change the fact that for months, David Perdue and Donald Trump have laughed off and undermined recommendations from the C.D.C. while thousands of Georgians lost their jobs, got sick, and died,” Miryam Lipper, Mr. Ossoff’s communications director, said in an email message.
The Democratic candidates are holding a virtual rally this afternoon with former President Barack Obama ahead of Georgia’s Monday deadline to register to vote in the runoffs.
And Mr. Trump, who continues to press his baseless claims that the election was stolen from him in Georgia and other states, is speaking Saturday night at an in-person rally with the senators in Valdosta, Ga., hosted by the Republican National Committee, that also makes no mention of a mask requirement.
President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. said on Thursday that he would implore Americans to wear masks for a little more than three months toward the beginning of his term.
“Just 100 days to mask,” Mr. Biden told CNN. “I think we’ll see a significant reduction.”
But until he is sworn in on Jan. 20, Mr. Biden’s ability to take direct action is limited.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi flashed fresh optimism on Friday that the House and Senate could soon reach a bipartisan deal on an elusive pandemic stimulus plan after she and Senator Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, agreed to try to find an agreement that could be merged with an enormous year-end spending package.
“That would be our hope because that is the vehicle leaving the station,” Ms. Pelosi, Democrat of California, said at a news conference in the Capitol Friday morning, a day after her conversation with Mr. McConnell, Republican of Kentucky. The phone call marked their first conversation since the election.
Though Ms. Pelosi conceded there were still obstacles to an agreement, she insisted there would be “sufficient time” to close a deal before the Dec. 11 government funding deadline. She pointed to lower-than-expected job gains reported on Friday as an added accelerant.
“There is momentum. There is momentum,” Ms. Pelosi said. “The tone of our conversations is one that is indicative of the decision to get the job done.”
Mr. McConnell expressed similar resolve on Thursday, although he stopped short of endorsing the $908 billion outline proposed by a bipartisan group of moderates that Ms. Pelosi has said should be the starting point for talks, instead pressing for a far smaller bill.
Stimulus talks have been stalemated for months, with lawmakers unable to resolve differences over issues like liability protections for businesses, a Republican demand that Democrats have resisted, and providing federal aid to state and local governments, a top priority for Democrats that many Republicans oppose. They are also still struggling to resolve a number of policy disputes in the must-pass bills needed to keep the government funded beyond Dec. 11, though most involved in the process say that a resolution is feasible before the end of the year.
After months of insisting they would not accept a slimmed-down relief bill, Democrats now appear poised to accept less than one third of the spending they initially proposed to prop up small businesses, help the uninsured and jobless, boost state and local governments, and meet immediate public health needs, leaving other priorities unaddressed until President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. takes office Jan. 20.
The emerging compromise would revive lapsed federal unemployment benefits at $300 a week for 18 weeks, and provide billions of dollars in funding for small businesses, schools and the imminent distribution of a vaccine.
While a bipartisan group of senators is expected to continue working on finalizing legislative text through the weekend, there remain a number of significant hurdles. The policy divides that have helped derail attempts to reach agreement earlier this year persist even as lawmakers circulate a tentative outline.
Pressed on her reversal, Ms. Pelosi was defensive on Friday, saying her earlier, multitrillion-dollar proposals that the Senate called nonstarters were important parts of a negotiating strategy that may now yield results. She insisted that Mr. Biden’s election and the looming arrival of two vaccines amounted to “a total game-changer.”
“President-elect Biden has said this package would be at best just a start,” she said. “That’s how we see it, as well. It is less money, but over a shorter period of time, and we need to do it to saves lives and livelihood with the hope that much more help is on the way.”
The Trump campaign and its Republican allies lost four legal challenges to the election in four states in a little more than an hour on Friday evening as President Trump’s attempts to use the courts to overturn the election results drew ever closer to an end.
The first defeat came around 4:30 p.m. when the Minnesota Supreme Court dismissed a Republican-led petition to stop certification of the state’s voting results because of what the campaign said were improprieties with how elections officials handled absentee ballots. Minnesota certified its vote results on Nov. 24 and the state’s top court ruled that the effort to derail the process was untimely not only because the petition was filed just hours before certification occurred, but also because the state had set rules for handling absentee ballots more than two months earlier.
Then, a little after 5 p.m., the Michigan Court of Appeals rejected an attempt by Mr. Trump to appeal a loss last month in a lower court which had denied his effort to halt the certification of the vote in Wayne County, home to Detroit, after he questioned the validity of absentee ballots there, too. Michigan certified its statewide results on Nov. 23, which rendered Mr. Trump’s attempt to derail the process moot.
Within minutes, a state judge in Nevada dismissed a lawsuit filed in Carson City last month by several Republican presidential elector candidates who claimed there was widespread illegal voting in the state and sought a court order to nullify the victory of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. in the state and declare Mr. Trump to be the winner.
But after considering depositions from several witnesses, Judge James T. Russell rejected these arguments, writing in an order that he found “no credible or reliable evidence that the 2020 general election in Nevada was affected by fraud.”
Not long after 6 p.m., the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued Republicans their fourth defeat of the evening. In a scathing order, the court dismissed an attempt by a conservative group, the Wisconsin Voters Alliance, to overturn the state’s already certified election results and let Wisconsin’s presidential elections be chosen by the state legislature instead.
“Such a move would appear to be unprecedented in American history,” Judge Brian Hagedorn wrote for the court.
“One might expect that this solemn request would be paired with evidence of serious errors tied to a substantial and demonstrated set of illegal votes,” Judge Hagedorn added. “Instead, the evidentiary support rests almost entirely on the unsworn expert report of a former campaign employee that offers statistical estimates based on call center samples and social media research.”
Now only a handful of lawsuits and emergency petitions challenging the election remain in the courts, among them a request by Mike Kelly, a Republican congressman from Pennsylvania, for the Supreme Court to hear his appeal of a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the results of the state’s election results.
There are at least two more state cases still alive in Arizona and Georgia and a federal case in Milwaukee. Sidney Powell, a former lawyer for Mr. Trump whom the campaign has disavowed, also has four more federal cases — in Georgia, Wisconsin, Michigan and Arizona — alleging conspiracies to tilt the election to Mr. Biden by manipulating voting machines.
Will Levi, the chief of staff to Attorney General William P. Barr, is leaving the Justice Department amid the transition to the incoming Biden administration, according to a Justice Department spokeswoman. His last day was Friday.
While it is customary for political appointees and their staffers to leave near the end of an administration, such departures have been complicated by the refusal of President Trump and his allies to acknowledge President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s election win. The head of personnel for the White House, Johnny McEntee, has reportedly said he would fire anyone in the administration seeking another job.
Mr. Levi was also considered a part of Mr. Barr’s small inner circle. Mr. Barr’s own future was called into question this week after he acknowledged that the Justice Department had not found any evidence of the sort of widespread voter fraud that would change the results of the election.
“Will is a rarity: a brilliant lawyer with common sense, humility and integrity,” Mr. Barr said in a statement. “For the past two years, he has unstintingly given himself in service to the department” and “handled challenges with remarkable resiliency and humor.”
Mr. Levi is the grandson of former Attorney General Edward Levi, who served under Gerald R. Ford and was known for implementing anti-corruption reforms at the department after Watergate. Will Levi’s father, David Levi, was a U.S. attorney in California under former President Ronald Reagan.
Mr. Levi became chief of staff this spring after his predecessor, Brian Rabbitt, took over the Justice Department’s criminal division.
Before becoming chief of staff, Mr. Levi worked in the attorney general’s office as a counselor who advised Mr. Barr on efforts to examine and overhaul the government’s domestic spying authorities.
Chris Michel, a lawyer in the solicitor general’s office who had recently been working in Mr. Barr’s office, will assume the chief of staff role for the coming weeks.
President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has been thinking about the presidency on and off for more than 50 years, childhood friends say.
But when he is sworn in next month, he is planning to forego many of the traditional trappings of a presidential inauguration, as he takes the oath of office amid a devastating pandemic that is expected to worsen this winter.
“My guess is, there probably will not be a gigantic inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue,” he told reporters on Friday. “My guess is, you’ll see a lot of virtual activity in states all across America, engaging even more people than before.”
“It is highly unlikely,” he added at another point, that “there will be a million people on the Mall.”
In a briefing not far from his home in Wilmington, Del., Mr. Biden said that his team was looking to the Democratic National Convention that was held almost entirely virtually as something of a guide for his inauguration. At the convention, Mr. Biden gave a speech that was open to a small group of reporters, and then he greeted, from a distance, supporters at a drive-in car rally. But much of the week featured virtual appearances from Democrats in various locales around the country.
“The convention we put on really opened up avenues that we never thought existed,” Mr. Biden said, noting that his team was working in consultation with organizers of that convention and with Congress, and that planning was fluid.
And not every tradition will be slashed.
Mr. Biden’s team announced the formation of an inaugural committee this week, and organizers intend for Mr. Biden to take the oath of office and to speak to the nation outside the West Front of the Capitol.
“It will be available either virtually or in-person for many, and my guess is, there will still be a platform ceremony,” Mr. Biden said of the festivities. “The key is keeping people safe.”
“People want to celebrate,” he said. “People want to be able to say, we’ve passed the baton, we’re moving on. Democracy has functioned.”
ATLANTA — A young man working on Senator Kelly Loeffler’s election campaign was killed on Friday in an auto accident on his way to Vice President Mike Pence’s rally in Savannah, Ga., for Ms. Loeffler and her fellow Republican Senator David Perdue, a Loeffler spokeswoman said.
The young man, Harrison Deal, of Bulloch County, Ga., was a student at the University of Georgia and had been expected to graduate in 2022, Mr. Perdue said in a statement. The circumstances of his death were confirmed Friday by Caitlin O’Dea, a spokeswoman for Ms. Loeffler.
Mr. Deal had close ties to the organizations of Ms. Loeffler, for whom he was working as a field representative, and Mr. Perdue, having worked as an intern in Mr. Perdue’s Atlanta office in the summer of 2019, Mr. Perdue’s statement said.
Mr. Deal was also close to the family of Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, a Republican. The death of Mr. Deal prompted Mr. Kemp and Ms. Loeffler to skip Mr. Pence’s rally on Friday.
“Today, we lost a member of our ‘Kemp Strong’ family and words cannot express how much Harrison Deal’s life, love and support meant to us,” Mr. Kemp’s family said in a statement posted on Twitter. “He was a person of deep faith, unmatched integrity, and incredible kindness. Harrison was the Kemp son and brother we never had.”
Mr. Perdue and Ms. Loeffler also expressed their condolences in public statements. The two Georgia senators are each facing competitive and high-stakes runoff elections scheduled for Jan. 5 that could determine which party controls the Senate.
Call it the Return of Fauci.
It’s not that Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, America’s top infectious disease expert, ever actually went anywhere. It just often seemed that way as he fell out of favor with his boss, President Trump, and was sidelined even as the country grappled with a pandemic.
Now it is Mr. Trump who is leaving, and on Thursday, his successor had a message for Americans: Dr. Fauci will soon be back in the mix.
“I asked him to stay on in the exact same role he’s had for the past several presidents,” President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. said, “and I asked him to be a chief medical adviser for me as well, and be part of the Covid team.”
On Friday morning, Dr. Fauci told NBC’s “Today” show he had accepted the offer “right on the spot.”
Mr. Trump had at times been openly scornful of Dr. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and appeared put off by his popularity. The president, who often dismissed the threat of the coronavirus, was also frustrated by Dr. Fauci’s endorsements of masks and restrictions on movement, preferring the counsel of advisers who backed his call to reopen the economy as soon as possible.
Even before Mr. Biden’s announcement Thursday, Dr. Fauci found himself in the news as American and British health officials skirmished over the U.K.’s announcement that it had beaten the U.S. in the race to approve a vaccine.
Gavin Williamson, Britain’s education secretary, appeared to be crowing.
“We’ve obviously got the best medical regulators,” he said. “Much better than the French have. Much better than the Belgians have. Much better than the Americans have.”
Dr. Fauci seemed more than a little skeptical.
The British authorities, he said, moved more quickly only because they had not scrutinized the vaccine test data as carefully as their American counterparts. “We have the gold standard of a regulatory approach,” he said.
Later, a chagrined-looking Dr. Fauci, who is ordinarily averse to public conflict, appeared on British television saying that he wanted to apologize.
“We do things a bit more differently, that’s all — not better, not worse, just differently,” he told the BBC.
More than a month after Election Day, two extraordinarily close House races remain unresolved.
Here’s an overview of the races — in Iowa’s Second Congressional District and New York’s 22nd district — and what needs to happen before the results are finalized.
This race for a seat being vacated by Representative Dave Loebsack, a Democrat, was always expected to be close, but it would have been hard to predict just how close.
In the initial count, the Republican candidate, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, led Rita Hart, a Democrat, by 47 votes. A recount narrowed Ms. Miller-Meeks’s lead to just six votes, and Iowa officials certified her as the winner on Nov. 30.
Ms. Hart chose not to challenge the results through the normal legal process, which would have involved district courts and the Iowa Supreme Court. Instead, she took the unusual step of contesting the election in Washington before the House Administration Committee, which has the power to conduct an investigation and make a recommendation to the full House on which candidate to swear in.
New York 22
Former Representative Claudia Tenney, a Republican who was unseated by Anthony Brindisi in 2018, led him by just 12 votes after all ballots appeared to have been counted in New York’s 22nd Congressional District, which includes Binghamton and Utica.
But then 55 uncounted ballots turned up in Chenango County, throwing the race into even more turmoil than it had already been in thanks to the incredibly close margin and a set of 39 disputed ballots. The outcome may also depend on absentee and affidavit ballots whose validity a judge is expected to determine.
There will be extensive litigation, and potentially a recount, before a winner is declared.
This is the last outstanding race in New York, where the State Board of Elections certified all other results yesterday. Four other races where results had been delayed because of slow counting — in the First, Second, 11th and 24th Districts — were all recently called for Republicans.
The coronavirus pandemic has inflicted an economic battering on state and local governments, shrinking tax receipts by hundreds of billions of dollars. Now devastating budget cuts loom, threatening to cripple public services and pare work forces far beyond the 1.3 million jobs lost in eight months.
Governors, mayors and county executives have pleaded for federal aid before the end of the year. Yet the Republican leadership shows no sign of coming around on state and local aid, even as efforts to forge a new stimulus bill gained momentum this week.
While Congressional Republicans have scorned such assistance, with the Senate majority leader, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, referring mockingly to a “blue-state bailout,” six of the seven states that are expected to suffer the biggest revenue declines over the next two years are led by Republican governors and won by President Trump this year, according to a report from Moody’s Analytics.
Wyoming, Alaska and North Dakota, which largely depend on energy-related taxes, are among the Republican-led states facing the biggest revenue declines. All three depend on energy-related taxes and have suffered from the sharp decline in oil prices.
Places where tourism provides a large infusion of revenues, like Republican-led Florida and Democrat-led Nevada, face revenue declines of 10 percent or more. Louisiana, which also voted for Mr. Trump, relies on both tourism and energy. And Republican-led Iowa is expected to suffer revenue declines as well.
Elsewhere, the steep falloff in sales and income taxes — which on average account for roughly two-thirds of a state’s revenue, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts — is forcing Republican and Democratic officials alike to consider laying off police officers, reducing childhood vaccinations and closing libraries, parks and drug treatment centers.
When Georgia turned blue for President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. this year after record voter turnout, it validated the political vision and advocacy of a group of Black women who have led a decades-long organizing effort to transform the state’s electorate.
Democrats celebrated their work registering new voters, canvassing and engaging in long-term political outreach. The achievement seemed to confirm mantras that have become commonplace in liberal politics, like “trust Black women” and “Black women are the backbone of the Democratic Party.”
With Georgia at the center of the political universe before two pivotal Senate runoff elections in January, the organizers are asking Democrats: Will you embrace our approach now?
“I am unapologetically Black,” said Felicia Davis, a political organizer in Clayton County. “My agenda is Black. My community is Black. My county is Black. So what I do is Black. And for 20 years, we’ve been trying to tell people what was possible.”
The coalition of voters who flipped Georgia was a diverse one. Every piece mattered: increased turnout among young voters; outreach to Black, Latino and Asian-American communities; and a rejection of President Trump by some college-educated white voters who typically vote Republican.
But in the telling of many Black women who helped organize for Democrats this year, the story of how Georgia voted does not start with Mr. Trump’s election in 2016 or Mr. Biden’s campaign investment this year. It begins a decade earlier, when a new generation of Black female leaders decided to create their own structures after becoming fed up with a state party dominated by conservative “Dixiecrats” and a moderate establishment that presumed the electorate could not change.
“People weren’t even paying attention, because they thought that’s just the way it was here,” said Nse Ufot, who leads the New Georgia Project, one of the most prominent groups.
President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. will face a narrowly divided Congress and a hostile Republican leadership as he tries to pass climate change legislation, piece by piece — knowing full well that the $2 trillion plan he campaigned on will be a tough sell.
The leaders of his environment and energy team will be the ones tasked to find a path around Congress with regulations that can cut planet-warming emissions and survive judicial review.
Mr. Biden, who already has said that former Secretary of State John Kerry will become an international “climate envoy,” is expected to announce his choices in the coming days. Here are the leading contenders, according to people familiar with the matter:
Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency — Mr. Biden’s top choice is Mary D. Nichols, California’s climate and clean air regulator. He is also considering Collin O’Mara, president of the National Wildlife Federation, and Heather McTeer Toney, the former mayor of Greenville, Miss., and a regional E.P.A. administrator in the Obama administration.
Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality — Mr. Biden is considering Mustafa Santiago Ali, a veteran of the E.P.A. who serves as a top official at the National Wildlife Federation overseeing social justice matters. Brenda Mallory, another E.P.A. veteran, is also in the running. She served as the general counsel to the environmental quality council during the Obama administration.
Secretary of the Interior — Michael Connor, a former deputy secretary of the Interior in the Obama administration and a citizen of Taos Pueblo, one of the country’s 574 federally recognized Native American tribes, is viewed as a strong choice for the post. Two others under consideration are Representative Deb Haaland, Democrat of New Mexico, and one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress; and Senator Tom Udall, Democrat of New Mexico, who is retiring at the end of the year.
Secretary of Energy — Ernest J. Moniz, a nuclear physicist who served as Mr. Obama’s second energy secretary, is on the short list. Arun Majumdar, currently leading Mr. Biden’s transition team at the department, is also under consideration, as is Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall who has a deep background in nuclear weapons.
White House Climate Change Coordinator — Ali A. Zaidi, New York State’s deputy secretary of energy and environment, is widely considered a front-runner for the new position. The coordinator would work with high-level officials like Mr. Kerry. Jennifer Granholm, a former governor of Michigan and an energy adviser to Hillary Clinton, is also in the running.
Millions of federal student loan borrowers will continue to have a reprieve on their loans through Jan. 31, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced Friday, extending a pandemic relief measure that had been set to expire at the end of the month.
The extension avoids what borrowers — and the loan servicers that handle their accounts — feared would be a messy disruption between the end of President Trump’s administration and the start of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s term.
Mr. Biden has not said if he intends to extend the student loan moratorium, but he has called for limited student-debt cancellation and other relief efforts. The announcement means the moratorium, which has been in place since March, can be extended during the Biden administration with no interruption.
As of Sept. 30, 23 million borrowers had taken advantage of the relief option, suspending payments on $927 billion in debt, according to Education Department data.
The moratorium allows borrowers to skip payments on their federal student loans without penalty and without incurring interest. For those who opt to keep making payments, the entire amount goes toward their loan principal.
The measure covers only federal loans that are owned by the Education Department, which holds the vast majority of all student loans. Borrowers with private loans still need to make those payments.
The moratorium on payments extends to those who have defaulted on their federal loans and are having their wages garnished. Employers have been told to stop garnishing paychecks, Ms. DeVos said, and those who have had money garnished are due refunds.
“The coronavirus pandemic has presented challenges for many students and borrowers, and this temporary pause in payments will help those who have been impacted,” Ms. DeVos said in her announcement. “The added time also allows Congress to do its job and determine what measures it believes are necessary and appropriate.”