Sunday, December 13, 2020

Student Loan Relief Pushed out to January 31, Likely Longer

With little to no surprise, individuals with student loans will get another month of relief after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos extended the pause on student loan payments through January 31.

Borrowers haven't had to make payments since March, but the relief was set to expire on December 31. DeVos also extended the pause of interest accrual, as well as the suspension of collections on defaulted loans.

In an unprecedented move, President Donald Trump originally waived interest on student loans in March as large parts of the economy began to shut down in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

A broader version of student loan relief was included in the $2 trillion economic stimulus package signed into law two weeks later. Under the program, the US government automatically suspended payments and waived interest on federal student loans through September. Trump later moved the expiration date to the end of the year by executive action.

Congress has yet to approve more pandemic aid despite months-long negotiations over another broad stimulus package, but with the Christmas/ New Year Holiday Break looming, it appears that this will not happen before the end of the calendar year. 

A bipartisan proposal unveiled last week included a provision to continue the pause on student loan payments. However, negotiators still have quite a bit of work to do and the deadline is quickly approaching. It's likely that Congress will extend the relief past January 31. President-elect Joe Biden could also push back the deadline with an executive action, which almost seems a 100% certainty given his promises of eliminating student loan debt entirely.

The suspension and interest waiver applies only to federally held loans. That covers roughly 85% of all federal student loans, including those known as Direct federal loans and PLUS loans that parents can take out on behalf of their children.

It excludes some federal loans that are guaranteed by the government but not technically held by it. Generally, those were disbursed prior to 2010.

While borrowers won't have to make payments through January 31, they will continue to be able to do so and benefit from the 0% interest rate. If you have the means, this is an excellent time to keep paying on these loans.  Think of "0% financing on a new car," for example.

Those enrolled in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness payment plan will still receive credit toward the forgiveness program as if they had continued paying, as long as they are still working full time for qualifying employers.

More as this develops.  I hope you are all well.

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