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White House shares more on student loan forgiveness application, efforts to curb scams

Oct. 5, 2022 Updated Wed., Oct. 5, 2022 at 6:21 p.m.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates President Joe Biden’s student loan debt relief plan will cost $400 billion.  (Dreamstime)
The Congressional Budget Office estimates President Joe Biden’s student loan debt relief plan will cost $400 billion. (Dreamstime)
By Danielle Douglas-Gabriel Washington Post

As millions of student loan borrowers await the application for President Biden’s debt relief program, the White House is releasing a few more details about what they can expect from the form.

The application will be short and will not require borrowers to upload any documents or give their federal student identification number, a senior administration official told reporters Wednesday. It is unclear how the administration will verify an applicant’s eligibility for forgiveness, but the White House said it will release details in the coming weeks.

The administration had previously said that an application would be released in early October, but the timing is up in the air because of lawsuits filed in the past week seeking to block the loan forgiveness plan. In one of the cases, a federal judge has scheduled a hearing for Oct. 12 on whether to impose a preliminary injunction sought by six GOP-led states. In a court document last week, the Education Department said it would not discharge any debt before Oct. 17 as the judge makes a decision.

On a call with reporters Wednesday, a senior administration official said the date provided to the court has no bearing on when the application will go live but declined to give a firm release date.

“We’re charging full speed ahead in getting relief to borrowers who need it most,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the administration. “We’ve already started communicating with borrowers on what to expect in the coming weeks. And we’ll have more updates in the coming days.”

The White House has said borrowers should complete their forgiveness application by Nov. 15 to have them processed before federal student loan payments are set to resume in January. Applications will continue to be processed on an ongoing basis.

The bare-bones design of the application is meant to prevent scams against student loan borrowers, according to the White House. Consumer groups and federal agencies are tracking an uptick in scams targeting student loan borrowers since Biden unveiled his debt relief plan in August.

The president’s policy would cancel up to $10,000 in federal student loan debt for borrowers who earn less than $125,000 per year, or less than $250,000 for married couples. Those who received Pell Grants, federal aid for lower-income students, could see up to $20,000 forgiven.

According to the Better Business Bureau, some borrowers are receiving calls from people claiming to represent the federal program and asking for bank account details. Others are being asked to pay an upfront fee in exchange for assistance.

The Federal Trade Commission has warned borrowers against sharing their financial aid ID, paying anyone for help applying for forgiveness and trusting anyone who claims to be calling from the Education Department.

The federal agency said it is working with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to hold scammers accountable if they take advantage of borrowers. Both are encouraging borrowers to file complaints to help them in the effort.

The Biden administration said that, starting this month, it will also work with state agencies to regularly share complaint reports to identify and combat scams. The Education Department on Wednesday issued a list of actions borrowers should and should not take in preparation for the release of the application.

Roughly 8 million borrowers whose income is already on file at the department will have their loans automatically forgiven without having to apply. Everyone else can sign up at ed.gov/subscriptions to be notified when the form goes live.

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