Center for American Progress urged Biden to extend the student-loan payment pause on Monday.
As an alternative, CAP recommended waiving interest and returning defaulted borrowers to good standing.
Payments resume in 43 days, and many borrowers worry they cannot afford another monthly bill.
The clock is ticking toward the resumption of student-loan payments in February, and if President Joe Biden does not push back that timeline, advocates want to be sure other relief measures are in place.
The Center for American Progress, the Institute for College Access and Success, and New America - all public policy organizations - sent a letter to President Joe Biden and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona on Monday regarding the student-loan payment restart. They urged Biden to delay the start of payments past February 1 and cited two primary economic concerns: rising Omicron cases could jeopardize workers' return to work, and given the pandemic-exacerbated racial disparities, borrowers of color will face "undue hardship" if payments are turned on too soon.
"As such, we believe that it is in the best interest of borrowers and their families to extend the pause on student loan repayment," the letter said.
But Biden has not yet indicated any intention to further extend the pause. If that's the case, the organizations recommend four additional protections for student-loan borrowers:
Continue to waive interest for all borrowers, as recommend by 14 US senators;
Return all borrowers in default on their debt to good standing to avoid financial penalties;
Ensure all borrowers are aware of the streamlined process to apply for an income-driven repayment plan;
And announce and implement provisions to "hold borrowers harmless" for payments, like offering a grace period to prevent borrowers from immediately becoming delinquent on their debt.
Some of those recommendations were included in an October report from Politico detailing plans the Education Department was considering for the transition back into repayment. According to the report, the department was weighing implementing a "safety-net period" during which borrowers who miss payments during the initial 90 days after the pause ends will be automatically placed on forbearance.
Other reported plans included given defaulted borrowers a "fresh start," along with simplifying enrollment to income-driven repayment plans. Insider reported this week Federal Student Aid has already posted a simplified application process for those seeking a monthly repayment plan based on family income, during which borrowers who apply can self-report their income rather than submit tax documentation.
Still, February 1 is 43 days away and 43 million federal student-loan borrowers are still waiting to hear from the Education Department on additional details for resuming payments. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki indicated earlier this month that the current payment pause does indeed expire early next year, but the administration is continuing to review the impact of the Omicron variant, which is causing cases to surge across the country.
Many borrowers still maintain they are not financially prepared to resume payments next year, and an analysis from the Roosevelt Institute found restarting payments will cost 18 million borrowers $85 billion over the next year.