Attorney General William Tong has joined a national coalition of attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in support of the federal government in two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court concerning the Biden Administration’s targeted cancellation of student loan debt to address the continuing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The amicus brief, filed Wednesday in the cases Biden v. Nebraska and Department of Education v. Brown, argues that U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona has the authority under the HEROES Act to provide limited debt cancellation to prevent student loan borrowers from experiencing grave financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Last year, the Biden Administration announced plans to grant $10,000 in debt relief for borrowers under certain income thresholds, and $20,000 in debt relief to borrowers who met those income thresholds and received a Pell Grant in college. This debt relief seeks to ensure that borrowers affected by the pandemic do not face catastrophic defaults at the conclusion of a nearly three-year pause in loan repayment obligations.
“Connecticut graduates and families owe billions of dollars in student loans. These unaffordable payments delay many from buying homes, opening businesses or starting families, and from beginning to build wealth for themselves. This relief is badly needed, and President Biden and Secretary Cardona were well within their authority to grant it,” said Attorney General Tong.
As of 2022, close to 500,000 Connecticut residents collectively owed $17.5 billion in student loans, with the average borrower owing more than $35,000. Connecticut ranks 25th in the country in average amount owed per borrower.
The coalition argues in the brief that targeted debt cancellation is an appropriate and necessary use of the Secretary of Education’s authority under the HEROES Act. The brief emphasizes the ongoing financial harm that the pandemic has caused student borrowers, and the evidence that a spike in pandemic-related defaults is likely to occur upon lifting of the current student loan repayment pause.
The brief also argues that state economies benefit when residents are protected from suffering preventable harms stemming from student loan defaults that could imperil their job prospects, housing security, and access to some federal benefits.