U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, alongside Senate Democrats, called on Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to take steps to ensure federal student loan borrowers who have been left out of the CARES Act receive federal student loan relief — including a freeze on all payments, interest, and collections. Since March, the CARES Act has provided forbearance, waived interest, and halted collections for borrowers whose student loans were directly held by the U.S. Department of Education. However, more than 8 million borrowers have been unable to access relief because some or all of their loans are held by commercial or school-based lenders. More than half of those borrowers have not received any relief and continue to be burdened by their student loans in the face of the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. The Department of Education has the ability to provide assistance to some of these borrowers by waiving penalties and restrictions to loan consolidations that will provide necessary relief during the economic crisis.
“Secretary DeVos must take immediate action to implement relief for millions of federal student loan borrowers that have struggled to access guaranteed relief under the CARES Act,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Without this relief, students and graduates across the country will continue facing additional and unnecessary financial strain during the economic crisis. Secretary DeVos must act immediately to ensure that millions of student loan borrowers get the relief they need.”
In a letter, Gillibrand and her colleagues urged Secretary DeVos to take immediate action to help federal student loan borrowers qualify for relief. The senators pressed DeVos to immediately reach out to borrowers currently missing out on relief by helping them consolidate their loans held by commercial or school-based lenders that do not qualify for CARES Act relief into qualifying loans. Additionally, they urged the Department of Education to improve the consolidation process for borrowers by waiving restrictions and penalties during the national emergency.
Senator Gillibrand has consistently prioritized access to safe education and relief for students during the COVID-19 pandemic. In September, Gillibrand called on Senate leadership to reform the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program and support frontline public service workers during the pandemic. Gillibrand has called for her What Can You Do For Your Country Act in the next coronavirus relief package in order to close gaps in the current PSLF program, clarify qualifications, and provide guidance to better serve eligible borrowers and help them receive the federal loan forgiveness they’ve earned.
Full copy of the letter can be found here.