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Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan on hold after appeals court blocks

(WASHINGTON) — The Biden administration faces a fast-approaching deadline to respond to a federal appeals court that on Friday placed a temporary block on the president’s plan to cancel billions of dollars in student loans, something he’s been touting with just two weeks to go before the midterm elections.

More than 22 million borrowers who have already applied for debt forgiveness now face an uncertain future. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily sided with six Republican-led states that sued to block Biden’s relief program and halted moves forward for any loan forgiveness — which could have started as early as this week.

The administration has until Monday at 6 p.m. ET to file its response.

The lawsuit, along with at least five additional legal challenges to Biden’s plan, have made it unclear whether a resolution will come by Jan. 1, when payments on all federal student loans are set to restart after a nearly three-year pandemic pause. The challenges claim that Biden has overstepped his presidential authority in implementing the student loan forgiveness program.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement Friday that the Biden administration will continue to fight the Republicans who are suing to block their efforts to provide loan relief.

“Tonight’s temporary order does not prevent borrowers from applying for student debt relief at studentaid.gov — and we encourage eligible borrowers to join the nearly 22 million Americans whose information the Department of Education already has,” Jean-Pierre said in a statement. “It also does not prevent us from reviewing these applications and preparing them for transmission to loan servicers.”

She said the order “merely prevents debt from being discharged until the court makes a decision.”

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona issued a similar statement, saying the temporary block doesn’t prevent the department from reviewing the “millions of applications” it has received since launching the program:

“Today’s temporary decision does not stop the Biden Administration’s efforts to provide borrowers the opportunity to apply for debt relief nor does it prevent us from reviewing the millions of applications we have received. Amidst Republicans’ efforts to block our debt relief program, we are moving full speed ahead to be ready to deliver relief to borrowers who need the help. As we continue our preparations in compliance with this order, we continue to encourage working- and middle-class Americans to apply for debt relief at studentaid.gov. President Biden and this Administration are committed to fighting for the millions of hardworking students and borrowers across the country.”

Biden announced his plan in August and launched the application process on last Monday. Last week, the administration saw some legal success for the program.

The appeals court decision came a day after U.S. District Judge Henry Autrey dismissed the suit ruling that the six states — Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas and South Carolina — failed to establish they had standing.Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett also rejected a request to block the program brought by a conservative Wisconsin taxpayers group.

“[Republicans] even fought this in the courts. But just yesterday, State Court and the Supreme Court said no, we’re on Biden’s side,” Biden said at Delaware State University on Friday.

Under the plan, individuals with student loans making less than $125,000 can apply for up to $10,000 of debt relief, or as much as $20,000 for eligible borrowers who were also Pell Grant recipients.

ABC News’ Karen Travers, Molly Nagle and Arthur Jones contributed to this report.

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