HARRISBURG – Attorney General Josh Shapiro is urging Congress, along with a bipartisan group of 28 attorneys general, to provide relief for all federal student loan borrowers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) currently only covers federal student loans owned by the federal government, excluding nearly 8 million borrowers whose federal student loans are owned by private entities.
“Far too many Pennsylvanians already struggle to pay off their student loans, which is made much worse when millions are out of work and can’t afford necessities,” said Attorney General Shapiro. “I’m calling on the Senate to extend the protections in the CARES Act to all student loans to help millions of Pennsylvanians who are trying to make ends meet during this pandemic.”
In March 2020, Congress passed the CARES Act, which provides financial relief for Americans, including student loan borrowers, impacted by the global pandemic. Under the CARES Act, student loan borrowers do not have to make payments and interest will not accrue on their loans through Sept. 30, 2020. The CARES Act also suspends involuntary collection activities and negative credit reporting through Sept. 30, 2020. While this relief is critical, the CARES Act only applies to federal student loans held by the federal government.
Nearly 8 million federal student loan borrowers have Perkins loans that are held by schools, or commercially-held Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFEL) loans that are held by financial institutions. While the federal government supports or guarantees these loans against default, borrowers were denied CARES Act relief. These borrowers are struggling with the pandemic just as other federal student loan borrowers are, but do not have relief options under the CARES Act solely because of the entity that owns their loan.
In the letter, the group urges the Senate to provide the same relief currently available to borrowers whose federal student loans are owned by the federal government, including a temporary suspension of payments, a 0% interest rate, and the suspension of involuntary collections. They also call for the relief measures to apply retroactively if borrowers have already made payments. The attorneys general state that members of the Senate can support added relief as part of a stand-alone bill – the Student Loan Fairness Act, S.4237 – recently introduced by Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Jack Reed of Rhode Island, or as part of the larger coronavirus relief package currently being debated in the Senate.
In addition, recognizing that the effects pandemic will be long-lasting, the coalition calls on Congress to implement longer-term solutions for struggling borrowers. Such measures include extending the temporary suspension of payments past Sept. 30, 2020 and requiring student loan servicers to evaluate borrowers for income-driven repayment plans once they resume payments.
Joining Attorneys General Shapiro, Raoul, and Clarkson in the letter are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
A copy of the brief can be found here.
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