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U.S. student debt automatically cancelled for 153K borrowers, Biden says

Click to play video: 'U.S. Supreme Court blocks Biden’s $430-billion student loan forgiveness plan'
U.S. Supreme Court blocks Biden’s $430-billion student loan forgiveness plan
WATCH: U.S. Supreme Court blocks Biden’s $430-billion student loan forgiveness plan – Jun 30, 2023

U.S. President Joe Biden said Wednesday that while a college degree was still a ticket to a better life, that ticket is often too expensive, as he announced he was canceling federal student loans for nearly 153,000 borrowers.

Biden, who is in the midst of a three-day campaign swing through California, made the announcement as part of a new repayment plan that offers a faster path to forgiveness, putting the spotlight on his debt cancellation efforts as he ramps up his reelection campaign.

“Too many Americans are still saddled with unsustainable debt in exchange for a college degree,” he said from a local library, before he went on to campaign-related events. Loan relief helps the greater economy, he reasoned, because “when people have a student debt relief, they buy homes. They start businesses, they contribute. They engage.”

The administration began sending email notifications on Wednesday to some of the borrowers who will benefit from what the White House has called the SAVE program. The cancellations were originally scheduled to start in July, but last month the administration said it would be ready almost six months ahead of schedule, in February.

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“Starting today, the first round of folks who are enrolled in our SAVE student loan repayment plan who have paid their loans for 10 years and borrowed $12,000 or less will have their debt cancelled,” Biden posted on social media Wednesday. “That’s 150,000 Americans and counting. And we’re pushing to relieve more.”

The administration has now canceled some US$138 billion in student debt for nearly 3.9 million people through executive actions, the White House said.

Click to play video: 'Biden announces $9B in student debt relief as payments resume following COVID pandemic pause'
Biden announces $9B in student debt relief as payments resume following COVID pandemic pause

The first round of forgiveness from the SAVE plan will clear $1.2 billion in loans. The borrowers will get emails with a message from Biden notifying them that “all or a portion of your federal student loans will be forgiven because you qualify for early loan forgiveness under my Administration’s SAVE Plan.”

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In his email to borrowers, Biden wrote he heard from “countless people who have told me that relieving the burden of their student loan debt will allow them to support themselves and their families, buy their first home, start a small business, and move forward with life plans they’ve put on hold.”

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More than 7.5 million people have enrolled in the new repayment plan.

He said Wednesday it was the kind of relief “that can be life changing for individuals and their families.”

“I’m proud to have been able to give borrowers like so many of you the relief you earned,” he said, asking the crowd gathered for his speech how many had debt forgiven. Many raised their hands.

During a quick stop at CJ’s Cafe before his library talk, Biden greeted customers, offering handshakes and hugs and posing for selfies. After his speech, Biden headed to San Francisco, where he was greeted by former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and headed to a fundraiser at a private home, where he spoke of his efforts to combat climate change to a roomful of donors.

“This is the last existential threat. It is climate,” he said. “We have a crazy SOB like Putin and others, and we always have to worry about nuclear conflict, but the existential threat to humanity is climate.”

Click to play video: 'Biden administration launches application site for student debt cancellation'
Biden administration launches application site for student debt cancellation

Biden also took aim at some of the recent comments made by his likely Republican challenger, Donald Trump, who compared the suspicious prison death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny to his own legal troubles in the U.S. Trump was fined $350 million after a New York judge found he lied for years about his wealth on financial statements in his companies. Trump said the ruling was a form of “communism or fascism.”

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“Some of the things that this fellow’s been saying, like he’s comparing himself to Navalny and saying that — because our country’s become a communist country, he was persecuted, just like Navalny was persecuted. I don’t know where the hell this comes from,” Biden said.

“I mean, if I stood here 10, 15 years ago and said any of this, you’d all think I should be committed.”

During a campaign fundraiser in Beverly Hills on Tuesday night, Biden highlighted his efforts to help middle-class Americans and warned that a win in November for Trump could lead to a nationwide abortion ban, more Republican efforts to undo the health insurance program started in the Biden administration and policies that would disproportionately help the wealthy.

Republicans have also largely opposed Biden’s student debt relief measures. But left-leaning progressive and young voters, whose support Biden needs to win re-election in November, have been vocal in advocating for student loan forgiveness on a wide scale.

Biden announced the new loan repayment plan last year alongside a separate plan to cancel up to $20,000 in loans for millions of Americans. The Supreme Court struck down his plan for widespread forgiveness, but the repayment plan has so far escaped that level of legal scrutiny. Unlike his proposal for mass cancellation — which had never been done before — the repayment plan is a twist on existing income-based plans created by Congress more than a decade ago.

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Biden said he remained steadfast in his commitment to “fix our broken student loan system,” working around the court’s ruling to find other ways to get it done.

Borrowers are eligible for cancellation if they are enrolled in the SAVE plan, originally borrowed $12,000 or less to attend college and have made at least 10 years of payments. Those who took out more than $12,000 will be eligible for cancellation but on a longer timeline. For each $1,000 borrowed beyond $12,000, it adds an additional year of payments on top of 10 years.

The maximum repayment period is capped at 20 years for those with only undergraduate loans and 25 years for those with any graduate school loans.

—With additional files from Reuters

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