President Joe Biden’s plan to provide up to $20,000 in federal student loan forgiveness has been blocked by two federal courts, leaving millions of borrowers wondering what happens next. The Justice Department has asked the Supreme Court to reverse one of the lower court decisions, warning that many Americans will face financial hardship if the plan remains blocked.
Here’s what to know if you’ve applied for relief:
WHAT HAPPENS NOW?
While the application for relief has been taken down from the Federal Student Aid website, applications that have already been filed are on hold while the appeal works its way through the courts.
“Courts have issued orders blocking our student debt relief program,” the Education Department said on its site. “As a result, at this time, we are not accepting applications. We are seeking to overturn those orders.”
A federal judge in Texas ruled that the plan overstepped the White House’s authority. Before that, a federal appeals court in St. Louis put the plan on temporary hold while it considers a challenge from six Republican-led states.
Still, advocates believe the administration will succeed in court.
“We’re really confident they’re going to find a way forward to cancel people’s debt,” said Katherine Welbeck at the Student Borrower Protection Center.
Experts say student loan forgiveness has the potential to end up before the Supreme Court, meaning this could be a lengthy process.
WHEN DO PAYMENTS RESUME?
Most people with student loan debt have not been required to make payments during the coronavirus pandemic, but payments are set to resume, along with the accrual of interest, in January.
Biden previously said the payment pause will not be extended again, but that was before the courts halted his plan. He’s now facing mounting pressure to continue the pause while the legal challenges to the program play out.
WHAT IF I ALREADY APPLIED FOR RELIEF?
More than 26 million people applied for cancellation over the course of less than a month, according to the Education Department. If you’re one of them, there’s nothing more you need to do right now. About 16 million people already had their applications approved, according to the Biden administration. Yet because of court actions, none of the relief has actually been delivered.
The Education Department will “quickly process their relief once we prevail in court,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.
WHAT IF I HAVEN’T YET APPLIED FOR RELIEF?
For those who have not yet applied, the application for debt cancellation is no longer online. But there are still steps people can take to make sure their debt is canceled, should the appeal be successful, according to Welbeck.”People should still check their eligibility,” she said. “As news changes, people should look out for updates from the Department of Education.”
You can sign up to receive the latest from the Federal Student Aid website here.
WHO QUALIFIES, SHOULD THE APPEAL SUCCEED?
The debt forgiveness plan announced in August would cancel $10,000 in student loan debt for those making less than $125,000 or households with less than $250,000 in income. Pell Grant recipients, who typically demonstrate more financial need, would get an additional $10,000 in debt forgiven, for a total of $20,000. Borrowers qualify if their loans were disbursed before July 1.
About 43 million student loan borrowers are eligible for some debt forgiveness, with 20 million who could have their debt erased entirely, according to the administration.