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60 Organizations Ask US Congress for Student Debt Relief

FILE - Students attend graduation ceremonies at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Aug. 6, 2011.

A coalition of more than 60 advocacy groups is urging Congress to cancel student debt in the next coronavirus stimulus package.

In an open letter submitted to lawmakers on Tuesday, signatories including the American Federation of Teachers, the NAACP and the Public Law Center expressed concern over the "increasingly grim predictions we hear about the state of our economy," especially the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which they say "fails to address this looming economic crisis."

Enacted March 27, CARES allowed U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to waive interest rates on federally held student loans for 60 days as part of COVID-19 emergency relief efforts.

Signatories say their proposed stimulus package will go beyond the CARES Act, offering "federal student debt cancellation, so the hardest hit don't struggle, and an extended federal student loan payment suspension that is expanded to all borrowers to at least March 2021."

The letter says an "extended payment suspension" would help families begin to recover, as well as "free up extra dollars to inject into the economy" during the existing national emergencies of the pandemic and the resultant economic crisis.

Additionally, by strengthening those who already have loans, an extended suspension on payments will ensure that "tens of millions of borrowers come out of this crisis with lighter debt burdens."

Ruby Rosenthal contributed to this story.