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Chuck Schumer. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), joined by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), on Tuesday called on President Biden to extend the moratorium on student loan payments and cancel $50,000 per borrower.

Why it matters: Americans owe about $1.6 trillion in student loans and the current pause on payments will end on Sept. 30, leaving more than 3o million people to begin making student loan repayments in October even as the pandemic continues.

Flashback: The federal student loan moratorium started in March 2020 as part of the CARES Act and has already been extended multiple times.

  • Biden has previously indicated that he would be willing to cancel no more than $10,000 per borrower.
  • Earlier this month the administration canceled $55.6 million in student loan debt for victims of a for-profit college fraud

The big picture: Schumer urged the president to give people a "chance to recover" from the pandemic, and "wait till the Spring" to unfreeze the moratorium.

  • The average borrower has to make a monthly payment of $400, which Schumer termed "much too much."
  • All three lawmakers framed the extension of the moratorium as a first step, to be followed by canceling $50,000 per borrower.
  • Schumer noted that resuming payments would stall the country's economic recovery and "could bring millions of borrowers to the edge of financial crisis.”
  • Wiping out student loan debt would help close the racial wealth gap, Schumer added.

What they're saying: The student loan moratorium has “proven to be one of the most effective steps that the government has taken to help Americans get through the health and economic crisis created by COVID-19," said Schumer.

  • “To make borrowers repay their debts now would be unfair, would be harsh, in many instances would be cruel," he added.
  • “The size of these payments for many borrowers is the size of their rent, their car payments, groceries, child care," Warren said, adding that many borrowers "live with a sword above their heads."
  • "This is a matter of economic justice, it is a matter of racial justice," Warren added.
  • “Failure to act would be unconscionable," Pressley said.

Go deeper

Howard University student protest continues

The protest extended beyond Blackburn Center as some students pitched tents outside. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The Blackburn Takeover at Howard University has gone on for over three weeks as students continue to protest unsafe living conditions and advocate for representation on the board of trustees. 

The big picture: University officials and student protesters are in a deadlock as administrators promise to sit down with students occupying Blackburn Center once they leave, but the students say they won’t go until their demands are met.

Driving the news: Student protestors have gotten support from notable Howard alumni and others.

  • Rev. Jesse Jackson was on campus this week to meet with students and university officials.
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) tweeted in support of protestors on Tuesday.
  • Rappers under artist Gucci Mane’s label have also shown support.

What’s happening: Since the protest began, the university has released multiple statements supporting the right to peaceful protest, but condemning the occupation of Blackburn Center, which also serves as a cafeteria. 

University president Wayne A. I. Frederick on Tuesday released a statement saying in part that Sodexo, the company that runs the cafeteria inside Blackburn, has had to layoff some employees as the result of being closed for so long.

  • His statement also mentioned COVID concerns, as some students are moving back and forth from Blackburn Center to their residence halls. 

Zoom in: Mold, leaks, and vermin are all issues in residence halls, according to students.

University officials have reported improvements in student housing and say the majority of students are "living comfortably."

  • But, students say unsafe living conditions are still an issue, and are calling for the historic HBCU to end its contracts with Corvias, the company that manages campus housing.
  • There have also been recent reports of safety issues in the university's chemistry building. The university addressed some of those concerns on Twitter.

Meanwhile, The Hilltop, HU’s student newspaper, also released a statement on Tuesday saying that it’s consulting with the Student Press Law Center following concerns about what The Hilltop calls efforts by the university to censor their reporting. 

In response, Frank Tramble, Howard's vice president and chief communications officer, sent Axios a statement saying in part, "To challenge student reporters to be accurate is not a call to silence their voice but elevate their practices to be respected in the industry."

Tramble went on to cite a few incidents involving Blackburn coverage where a student journalist recorded after being asked not to, and published off-the-record comments, among other issues.

The bottom line: The Blackburn Takeover has already far exceeded the 9-day Howard student protest in 2018, which ended with a deal between students and the university. This time there’s no clear end in sight. 

Updated 29 mins ago - Energy & Environment

Bomb cyclone prompts blizzard warnings from Virginia to Maine

Computer model projection showing the intense storm off of Cape Cod on Jan 29, 2022, with heavy snow and strong winds lashing the coastline. (Weatherbell.com)

Blizzard warnings are in effect for 11 million people from coastal Virginia to eastern Maine as a potentially historic winter storm is set to slam the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast beginning Friday.

Why it matters: The storm will bring hazards ranging from zero visibility amid hurricane force wind gusts and heavy snow, to coastal flooding that will erode vulnerable beaches and threaten property from the Jersey shore to coastal Massachusetts.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Swastikas found outside Union Station in D.C.

People walk through Union Station on Jan. 16 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Drawings of swastikas appeared etched around the entrance to Union Station in Washington, D.C., on Friday morning.

Driving the news: "An investigation is underway with Amtrak Police and the Metropolitan Police Department after swastikas were reported on the exterior of Washington Union Station on Friday," Amtrak spokesperson Kimberly Woods said in a statement to Axios.