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US Federal Student Debt Forgiven for Disabled Borrowers


FILE - Students walk on the University of Kansas campus, in Lawrence, Kansas, Oct. 24, 2019.

Student loan borrowers in the United States with total and permanent disability will have their debt discharged, the U.S. Department of Education (DoED) has announced.

"Borrowers with total and permanent disabilities should focus on their well-being, not put their health on the line to submit earnings information during the COVID-19 emergency," Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a press release.

"Waiving these requirements will ensure no borrower who is totally and permanently disabled risks having to repay their loans simply because they could not submit paperwork."

The forgiveness will impact more than 230,000 borrowers. The debt relief applies to federal student loan borrowers with “total and permanent disability,” DoED explained.

An example of borrowers who will be relieved by this action are veterans who took out federal student loans and have been deemed disabled by the U.S. Veteran’s Administration. Total and permanent disability exists if an individual can no longer work because of illness or injury.

Of the 230,000, more than 41,000 will be refunded payments made during the COVID-19 pandemic. Further, they will not be asked to submit earnings documentation for that time, the statement said.

By federal regulation, borrowers of federal loans who receive debt discharge are “subject to a three-year monitoring period,” meaning they must provide employment and earnings information to the department.

But during the COVID-19 pandemic, DoED is waiving that employment and earnings requirement for the other 190,000 borrowers who remain in a monitoring period.

“These changes will ensure that no borrowers are at risk of having their loans reinstated — meaning they would have to repay their debt — for failure to provide earnings information during the COVID-19 emergency,” DoED said in a press release on Monday.

Some borrowers who earn more than federal thresholds or who do not meet other criteria will have their loans reinstated after the pandemic, DoED said.

DoED will not require borrowers who have received a debt discharge because of total and permanent disability to submit earnings documentation for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency. The debt relief is retroactive to March 13, 2020.

The department said this action is on top of “pausing interest, payments, and collection activity on the vast majority of federal student loans through at least September 30, 2021.”

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