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It has been more than 16 months since the federal student loan suspension program came into effect, and the end of the forbearance period on September 30 is fast approaching.
But the issue of restarting student loan repayments is a thorny one. There is evidence that service agents are not ready to start receiving payments again, and many borrowers are unable to make them. Some lawmakers are proposing to extend the forbearance period or write off student loan debt altogether.
Here’s where it stands now and what could happen next.
Lawmakers, Education Department Call for Extension of Student Loan Suspension
Most federal student loans have been in suspension since March 2020. President Joe Biden extended the forbearance period until September 30, 2021 just hours after its inauguration. No payments were due and no interest was accrued on the loans during the forbearance period. Borrowers with past due student loans also cannot have their wages garnished during the forbearance period.
In early July, Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Edward J. Markey (D-, wrote a letter to President Joe Biden urging him to extend the current period of loan forbearance until at least March 30, 2022. due to ongoing service issues, including the lack of staff to resume receiving payments in less than three months, and the difficult financial situations of many stressed borrowers.
After speaking to loan officers and borrowers, Massachusetts senators estimated that “neither student loan borrowers nor student loan officers are ready to resume payments, and officers will need a long time to settle. ‘ensure staff and procedures are ready to provide borrowers with a level of support,’ the letter said.
It includes an anecdote of one provider describing the complexity of resuming payments as “unprecedented”, with over 43 million accounts entering repayment status in one go.
Lawmakers and agents expect the hotlines to be overwhelmed once the forbearance period is over, as borrowers who still need help will try to contact their agent to discuss their options.
According to the letter, only one service officer has conducted an “extensive and ongoing” outreach to borrowers on their options to avoid default after the forbearance period is over, and most are still awaiting advice from the loan office. Federal student aid from the Department of Education before starting outreach. .
It is not just legislators who are asking for more time. Education Ministry officials have recommended that the abstention period be extended, as Politico reported. The extension would run until the end of January 2022, according to people familiar with the matter, but the education ministry has not yet taken an official position on extending the abstention period after September 30.
Meanwhile, borrowers report that they are not ready for the end of the forbearance period. A June survey of nearly 24,000 student loan borrowers by the Student Debt Crisis advocacy group found that 90% of respondents were not ready to start paying off their student loans again in October.
Even if this exaggerates the case, the economy still has a way to go before it returns to normal. Millions of people remain unemployed, and the unemployment rate for university graduates is almost twice as high today as it was before the pandemic.
Will Biden cancel student loan debt?
There is always the lingering question of student debt: will it ever be canceled?
The prospect of student loan debt cancellation sparks heated rhetoric on both sides of the aisle. Those flames were further fueled by economic uncertainty during the pandemic as some progressives, including Representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), pushed even harder for student loan debt cancellation.
Biden recently wrote off $ 3 billion in student loan debt for victims of for-profit college fraud. He also supports $ 10,000 student loan debt cancellation per borrower – a far cry from the $ 50,000 incremental surge – but it is unclear how much he is dedicated to any large-scale loan cancellation.
Read more: Don’t rejoice at Joe Biden canceling student loan debt just yet
How to prepare for the resumption of student loan payments
Other forms of economic relief from Covid-19 are ending soon. Biden has signaled that the CDC’s eviction moratorium and expanded unemployment benefits will not be renewed, so student loan borrowers should be careful and prepare now for the relief measures to end as well.
If you’re worried about how you’ll handle the resumption of student loan repayments, consider these options:
Consider an income-based repayment plan. Borrowers who are struggling financially should consider an income-based repayment plan so that their monthly payments can be manageable and thus avoid default. In this type of payment plan, monthly payments are determined by your income, location, and family size. Keep in mind that interest will continue to accrue on these plans, meaning lower monthly payments will result in a higher total bill over the course of the loan.
Read more: How Income Based Repayment Will Work After Federal Student Loan Forbearance Ends?
Prepare your budget for student loan repayments. If you’ve used the freed up money that would have been used to pay off your student loans each month for something else, now might be a good time to start reallocating it to your balance. Start by incorporating the payment into your budget, perhaps transferring it to your savings or making payments now, so you can adjust your spending to what it was before the forbearance period.
If you are unable to resume payments, contact your server as soon as possible. People who absolutely cannot afford a monthly student loan payment should contact their service agent for information on enrolling for deferral or forbearance. However, these relief options should not be taken lightly; they are intended for borrowers who need significant assistance, have eligibility conditions and, in some cases, still accumulate interest during the period of relief granted. Contacting your repairman now to discuss your options can be a good way to prepare a plan for the end of the current forbearance period.