New York Attorney General Letitia James and a coalition of 27 attorneys general from around the nation today sent a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos calling on the U.S. Department of Education to extend federal student loan borrowers an olive branch, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Across the country, states have adopted precautionary measures to containing the spread of coronavirus, including the closing of non-essential businesses. The letter by the coalition of attorneys is a plea to protect borrowers from further financial burden and debt, regardless of the promise by the federal government of a stimulus package.
“Borrowers need immediate relief and cannot wait for a stimulus package to pass through Congress which is why our coalition is calling on the Department of Education to take immediate action and protect student loan borrowers,” said AG James. “Any stimulus relief should be weighed separately and should not be used as an excuse to deprive borrowers what they need.”
Joining James in the letter were attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, and Puerto Rico.
The letter notes that while the federal government has already taken a series of initial steps to help student loan borrowers — including ceasing some collection actions — the Department of Education must do more, including:
- Halting all new and continuing involuntary collection activities — including wage garnishment and the offset of government benefits, such as Social Security and tax refunds — and refunding 2019 tax refund offsets for all federal student loan borrowers for the duration of the crisis.
- Automatically enrolling all federal student loan borrowers who are in or enter into forbearance, who are or become delinquent on their loans, or who request enrollment in an Income Driven Repayment (IDR) Plan in an IDR plan with a $0-per-month payment, without requiring submission of an IDR application, verification of income, or recertification for the duration of the crisis. This would permit struggling borrowers to suspend payments while continuing to make progress toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness or IDR loan forgiveness.
- Extending eligibility for all additional relief available pursuant to previously announced modifications for those affected by national emergencies to all federal loan borrowers for the duration of the crisis.
The coalition’s letter urges the Department of Education to extend this emergency relief to all federal student loan borrowers, including borrowers whose Federal Family Education Loans or Federal Perkins loans are not held by the Department of Education.
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