New data out Friday showing that U.S. inflation reached a nearly 40-year high last month was cited as yet another reason that President Joe Biden should—at the very least—extend the federal student loan payment pause that's set to end in just 52 days.
"Today's economic data make the strongest case imaginable for a change of course as the Biden administration rushes headlong into a hasty and poorly timed restart of the entire student loan system," Mike Pierce, executive director of the Student Borrower Protection Center, said in a statement.
"American families today are being forced to pay more to meet their basic needs, as rent, food, and energy prices skyrocket," Pierce continued. "Adding the burden of a student loan bill will stretch millions of families' finances to the breaking point. Washington does not need this money; American families do."
The Labor Department said Friday that the consumer price index—which tracks the amount people pay for goods and services—rose 6.8% in November compared with a year earlier, the fastest pace since 1982.
Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.
"The November increases were driven by broad-based price hikes in most of the categories tracked, similar to October inflation," The Washington Postreported. "Indexes for gasoline, shelter, food, used cars and trucks, and new vehicles were among the larger contributors... Friday's inflation report showed rent was up 0.4% in November compared with the month before, and 3% compared to last year."
But whatever the cause, advocacy groups said Friday that it should be out of the question for the Biden administration to pile resumed student loan payments on top of rising consumer prices, particularly as the newly detected Omicron variant threatens additional economic disruption. According to the Student Borrower Protection Center, resumption of payments would send a nearly $400 monthly bill to tens of millions of people across the U.S.
"With costs to families rising, does President Joe Biden want to be responsible for adding financial burdens on American families?" Remington A. Gregg, counsel for civil justice and consumer rights at Public Citizen, asked in a statement. "If not, he should immediately extend the student loan payment pause to give families certainty that they won't have to choose between paying for food and onerous student loans."
"Payments are set to resume in less than 60 days, even as another strain of the coronavirus hinders people's ability to get back to work and return to normalcy," Gregg added. "The choice couldn't be clearer."
If Biden doesn't act, federal student loan payments will resume and interest will begin accruing again on February 1, 2022. An analysis released earlier this week by the Roosevelt Institute warned that "if the Biden administration chooses to resume collection on student loan payments, approximately $7.12 billion a month and $85.48 billion annually will be stripped from 18,125,800 student loan borrowers' budgets."
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) referenced the Roosevelt Institute figures in a Wednesday letter imploring Biden to use his executive authority to cancel at least $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.
"The pause on federal student loan payments, interest, and collections has improved borrowers' economic security, allowing them to invest in their families, save for emergencies, and pay down other debt," the lawmakers wrote. "Restarting payments without canceling student debt will undermine these families' economic progress."