President Biden’s administration is trying to make it as easy as possible for federal student loan borrowers to get debt relief of up to $20,000, having recently launched an online loan forgiveness application that can be filled out in a few minutes and an awareness campaign to notify borrowers of the process. For an estimated 8 million borrowers, relief will be automatic — and no application will even be required.
The application campaign is aimed at borrowers who are still in the process of paying off their loans. The Department of Education has not yet identified what will qualify as “undue hardship,” but it has said that borrowers must be able to demonstrate a “serious financial hardship” that prevents them from paying back their loans.
Eligible borrowers will receive emails from the Education Department providing details on automatic relief options. Officials with the agency have advised borrowers to beware of companies offering help with student loan cancellation in exchange for payment.
As previously reported by Biz Assurance, the loan forgiveness application process formally launched with a beta test over the weekend. By Monday, millions of borrowers had already applied.
Federal student loan borrowers with an annual adjusted gross income of less than $125,000 in either 2020 or 2021 — or $250,000 for households — will be eligible for up to $10,000 in canceled debt. Those who received Pell Grants will be eligible for up to $20,000 in cancelled debt.
As many as 40 million Americans could benefit from the plan. The vast majority will have to go to the Education Department’s Federal Student Aid website to fill out the application, where they’ll be asked to provide personal information and confirm that they are applying for relief and meet the eligibility requirements.
That’s not the case for those who can be automatically enrolled, however. As the WaPo reported, if automatic enrollees don’t bow out, the Education Department will process their relief after Nov. 14. Borrowers eligible for automatic relief can fill out an application if they want the cancellation processed sooner.
Some borrowers might be leery about accepting debt relief amid reports that in some states the canceled debt will count as income that can be taxed. The Education Department has even faced lawsuits seeking to block the loan forgiveness plan because of its potential tax implications.
However, White House officials have countered that the plan is voluntary and borrowers can opt out if they don’t want to take part.