WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Two letters were sent to the White House this week asking President Joe Biden to extend the current pause on repaying federal student loans.

The pause, first implemented by former President Donald Trump and then extended by Biden, has been in place since March 2020 but is set to expire at the end of January.

Among those petitioning that the moratorium continue are three lawmakers and hundreds of organizations from across the country. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) co-authored one of the letters with Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York). The letter argued that if Biden extends the moratorium on federal student loan payments, it would free up about $85 billion over the next year.

“We see that the average monthly payment of $393 a month for student-loans borrowers is really counterintuitive to enabling households to keep as much money as they can during these hard times,” said Ali Bustamante of the Roosevelt Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. 

Student Loan Hero, a company that helps borrowers manage student debt, estimates the average student loan payment for a borrower in Maine is about $263 a month. 

The second letter to Biden was spearheaded by the Student Loan Borrower Protection Center, an advocacy group for those with student loan debt.

More than 200 other organizations, including the ACLU and the NAACP, co-signed the letter. The National Association of Social Workers, which has a chapter in Maine, also signed the letter.

“We are working with crushing student loan debt," said Sarah Butts of the National Association of Social Workers. "We have very high educational requirements for clinical social work practice, (and) in particular, huge associated student loan debt loads.

"It's been just a really unbelievable time for our workforce and this payment pause has at least provided some relief."

Several other groups signed the letter from the Student Loan Borrower Protection Center, including the Maine Center for Economic Policy and Mainers for Accountable Leadership.

White House officials did not respond to requests for comment.