Student Loan Impacts of COVID-19 Crisis
Borrowers who lose their job or have their hours cut may be eligible for a reduced monthly payment as low as $0 per month for 1 year through a Federal Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) Plan. Student Debt Crisis and Savi have developed a FREE tool to make that process much easier.
The CARES act was signed into law successfully pausing student loan payments and interest on federal loans until September 30. It is critically important that distressed borrowers use this time to get their student loans on track. Further details & frequently asked questions can be found below.
You may be able to Lower or
Eliminate Your Student Loan Payments
About the Free COVID-19 Student Loan Aid Tool
The advocates at Student Debt Crisis and experts at Savi have come together to create this automatic sign-up tool for people who lose their jobs or have their hours cut due to COVID-19. If your income goes down suddenly, you are eligible to have your student loan payment reduced under the government income-driven repayment programs. Student Debt Crisis is the nation's largest student loan advocacy organization. Savi has agreed to provide our student loan technology to support this important public education effort.
According to the US Department of Education, "Most federal student loans are eligible for at least one income-driven repayment plan. If your income is low enough, your repayment could be as low as $0 per month."
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Frequently Asked Questions
The pause on most federal student loans is automatic and you DO NOT need to opt-in. Eligible federal students are automatically being placed in an administrative forbearance from March 13, 2020 until September 30, 2020. Auto-debits are suspended during this period. If you already made a payment after March 13, you can request a refund by contacting your servicer. During this time, interest on most federal student loans will be changed to 0%. Servicers are required to contact you no later than August to remind you that your payments will resume in October, 2020.
Q. Do all federal student loans qualify for the new CARES Act benefits?
Most, but not all, federal student loans qualify. The Department of Education guidance states that the 0% interest benefit applies to all federal student loans. All Federal Direct Loans qualify for these new benefits including the 6-month payment pause and 0% interest. The only loans that do not qualify are commercially-held Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL), Perkins Loans owned by your college, and private loans.
Q. Will suspended payments count toward forgiveness programs like Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)?
The Department of Education states that suspended payments WILL be counted toward PSLF if you meet all other loan forgiveness requirements. These requirements include if: (1) you have direct loans, (2) were on a qualifying repayment plan prior to the event, and (3) continue to work for an eligible employer.
If you are interested or think you may qualify, you can find out more details about the requirements of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program here. PSLF provides forgiveness after 10 years of payments (120 monthly payments), so getting credit for 6 months while making $0 payments can be a substantial benefit.
The law also applies to other types of student loan forgiveness. The Department of Education states if you are currently in an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan, then the suspended payments will still qualify for IDR forgiveness. For example, under the PAYE plan, borrowers receive forgiveness after the 20 year repayment period.
For Teacher Loan Forgiveness, the law states that the government will “waive the requirements that years of teaching service shall be consecutive” if: (1) your teaching service has been interrupted due to COVID-19 and (2) if you continue teaching after the COVID-19 emergency ends. (CARES Act, §3519) This means that you will still be eligible for teacher loan forgiveness if you must stop teaching due to COVID-19, so long as you resume once the crisis ends.
Q. How will the new CARES Act benefits impact borrowers who are in default on their federal student loans?
On March 25, the Department of Education announced a pause on debt collection against borrowers who are in default— 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 only from March 13, 2020 to September 30, 2020. If collections against you were being processed after March 13, you are eligible for a refund on that amount. The Department of Education already announced that it would refund more than 830,000 borrowers approximately $1.8 billion in “Treasury offsets” that were still being processed when the pandemic was declared a national emergency on March 13.
Q. What if I lose my job or my income is reduced and I don’t know if I can make regular payments after September 30?
The Department of Education guidance states that your federal loans are eligible for an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan that sets your payment based on your income. If you lose your job, you could be eligible for a $0 payment for 12 months. Borrowers can continue to apply for IDR plans as they normally would during the payment pause period. If you are already enrolled in an IDR plan and your income goes down, you can apply immediately for a recalculation of your monthly payments. Your payment will still be $0 until the administrative forbearance period ends on September 30, and afterwards your payments would resume at the new payment amount.
For borrowers already in IDR who may need to recertify between now and September 30, Politico reports that “the Education Department has instructed servicers to automatically extend by six months the deadline for any borrower whose annual recertification of income becomes due during the period of suspended payments.”
Q. How does this work?
Most federal student loans are eligible for at least one income-driven repayment plan. If your income is low enough, your payment could be as low as $0 per month. The CARES Act, signed into law March 27, includes specific relief for student loan borrowers. From March 13, 2020 to September 30, 2020, your federally-held student loans will be automatically placed in a $0 administrative forbearance with all interest waived. The difference between the CARES act and this tool is that you may gain an additional 12 months of reduced payments beyond September 30, 2020 when the CARES act ends. The COVID-19 Student Loan Aid tool automates the application process for those who lost their job or had their hours reduced. It will typically take 2-4 weeks for your servicer to process the lower payment. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, there may be longer than normal delays. Please call your servicer if you do not hear anything to follow-up.
Q. Is there any cost?
No. The COVID-19 Student Loan Aid tool has just been made free-of-charge to the public to improve the application process during this time of crisis. We will never sell users data.
Q. Can borrowers really reduce loan payments to zero?
Yes. income-driven repayment plans base payments on income level at the time of application, so if a borrower (or their spouse) has lost a job, they may qualify for waiving payments altogether for 12 months at a time. If a borrower has had their income reduced, through a cutback on hours or taking lower-wage employment, the payment would scale according to the new income at time of application.
Q. Is this payment relief approved by the federal government?
The federal government offers various Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) options which student borrowers should review when they have a change in income. This online tool automates the federal application process to reduce mistakes, simplify the process, and save time. It is normally available as a member or employee benefit subsidized by member organizations like the National Education Association or by employers – but is being made free to the public in response to the novel coronavirus crisis.
Q. Won’t waiving payments actually cost borrowers more over time?
The CARES act waived interest on federally-held student loans during the COVID-19 crisis, retroactive to March 13, 2020 all the way to September 30, 2020.
Q. What does Savi get out of this?
Savi is a social impact Public Benefit Corporation founded by student borrower advocates – and responding to a crisis in partnership with nonprofit leaders in the sector. Savi will provide state-of-the-industry privacy protections, will not market other services to users, and will not sell user contact information to any third parties. This is a limited tool designed to provide immediate help during the COVID-19 crisis, and due to high volume this tool will only currently support income-driven repayment applications.
Q. How long will this service be offered free of charge?
The economic impacts of the Coronavirus will last longer than the health impacts – and neither are known at this time. Savi and the nonprofit advocates supporting this effort are committing to offering the application tool for free at least through July 1, 2020 with an extension possible based on economic conditions. That means an application approved by the end of June could provide payment relief through the end of June 2021.
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