Here’s where the Biden student loan debt relief program stands

“The Supreme Court would side with the President with regard to this,” Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett, U.S. Delegate for U.S. Virgin Islands, tells theGrio.

Republicans in several states have waged a legal war against President Joe Biden’s student loan debt relief program.  

According to the Associated Press, a federal appeals court in St. Louis, Missouri, issued a ruling to temporarily halt Biden’s student debt relief program. This comes after a Texas federal district judge last week struck down the plan and called it unconstitutional. As a result, student loan relief applications have been placed on hold.

U.S. President Joe Biden gives remarks on student debt relief at Delaware State University on October 21, 2022 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

In August, Biden unveiled a plan to cancel up to $20,000 in federal student debt for borrowers who received a Pell Grant and up to $10,000 for borrowers who did not receive the grant. The president’s plan was crafted to benefit borrowers making less than $125,000 or households making less than $250,000 a year who, amid the global pandemic, likely face financial hardships while paying off their student loans.

Why did the federal appeals court block the student loan debt program?  

The United States 8th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments from six Republican-led states, Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Arkansas and South Carolina, and according to the Associated Press, that make the legal argument that Biden’s debt relief program goes beyond the administration’s executive powers and would cause financial harm to the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority.

How is the Biden Administration responding to all of this?

The Biden Justice Department is asking the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to put a hold on the decision in the Texas case and is reportedly asking the United States Supreme Court to intervene in the federal appeals case in Missouri, Politico reported.

The administration has listed the HEROES Act as its legal justification for widespread student debt relief. The law grants the executive branch the power to relieve borrowers of their obligation to repay federal student loans in the state of a national emergency. The Department of Education has argued that the COVID-19 pandemic, and the financial crisis that followed, are justifications for the administration’s relief program.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre remains hopeful and believes the two court orders are only temporary.

During a recent White House press briefing, she said, “The order doesn’t prevent the Department of Education from reviewing these applications and preparing them for transmission to loan services.”

She added, “It merely prevents debt from being discharged until the court makes a decision, so we will continue to move full speed ahead.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre answers questions during the daily briefing at the White House on September 1, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

What does this mean for Black borrowers?

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., along with many others, pushed President Biden to grant the student debt relief anticipated by millions of Americans. Sen. Schumer says this temporary block on student debt relief is placing minority communities at a disadvantage.

“This is such a burden for our young people and particularly in communities of color where so many are first time going to college in their families and the colleges, particularly the for-profit colleges, took advantage of them,” he told theGrio.

Svante Myrick, executive director of People For the American Way, told theGrio that pausing student debt loan relief is unfortunate because most students who go to college are “trying to reach a middle class … trying to fight for a chance at the American dream.”

He added, “When Biden made this announcement, millions of people … not just students but, their families they all breathed easier.”

What will take place next?

Before reports signaled the Biden administration’s request to the Supreme Court, Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett, U.S. Delegate for U.S. Virgin Islands, predicted that very outcome in a recent interview at theGrio.

“We’re going to have to wait to see where this moves in the appellate courts and then eventually in the Supreme Court,” she said.

“I would think, particularly in the Supreme Court, that they have really taken the position that the president does have strong executive powers and so I could see an argument that the Supreme Court would side with the president with regard to this.”

Myrick told theGrio that he believes Biden Administration “will prevail and student loan debt will be forgiven.”

As alternatively, he says Congress could also provide the Biden Administration with more legal footing through legislation.

“Congress can pass legislation that makes clear the White House has the power to do this,” he said.

TheGrio’s Gerren Keith Gaynor contributed to this report.

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