What is the CARES Act & Executive Action?

The CARES Act provides relief to some student loan borrowers during COVID-19 by mandating that federally-held, direct student loans are automatically placed in an administrative forbearance that suspends both payments and interest until September 30, 2020. President Joe Biden used executive action to extend this relief until September 30, 2021.

Who qualifies to have loans paused?

Under the CARES Act and executive actions, federal Direct Loans all qualify as well as Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL) that are held by the Department of Education. The only loans that do not qualify are commercially-held FFEL Loans, Perkins Loans owned by your college, and private loans.

Is the pause automatic or do I need to opt-in?

The pause on most federal student loans is automatic and you DO NOT need to opt-in. Eligible federal loans are automatically placed in administrative forbearance from March 13, 2020, to September 30, 2021. If you made a payment after March 13, you can request a refund by contacting your servicer.

How does the pause work with the grace period upon graduation?

Existing rules allow for students who leave their program or recent graduates to not begin making payments on their federal student loans until 6 months after leaving school – this is called the “grace period.” Those whose “grace period” ends during the pause on federal student loan payments will automatically have their payments paused as well. Those whose “grace period” ends after the pause on federal student loan payments expires will immediately enter repayment.

How does this affect Public Service Loan Forgiveness?

The Department of Education states that suspended payments WILL be counted toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) if you meet all other loan forgiveness requirements. These requirements include if: (1) you have Federal Direct Loans, (2) continue to work for an eligible employer, and (3) were on a qualifying repayment plan prior to the implementation of the CARES Act.

What happens if I am already in default?

The Department of Education announced a pause on debt collection against defaulted borrowers, including wage garnishment, reduction of tax refunds, and reduction of Social Security and Social Security disability benefits. Recent guidance states that the pause on debt collection applies from March 13, 2020, to September 30, 2021. If collections against you were being processed after March 13, you are eligible for a refund on that amount.

What happens after September 30, 2021?

At this time, federal student loan payments will resume on October 1, 2021. If you are concerned about your ability to make payments, the guidance states that your federal loans are eligible for an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan, setting your payment based on your income for the next 12 months.

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