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You can suspend your student loan payments during the coronavirus pandemic, as long as your loans are held by the federal government. If you are experiencing financial difficulty and need assistance, suspending your student loans can make a huge difference.
The CARES Act provides automatic suspension of payments for federal loans.
From March 13th through September 30th, 2020, the interest rate on your federal student loans will be automatically set to 0% and all payments will be suspended. You don’t need to do anything; this will all happen automatically.
You will receive a written notice sometime between March 13th and September 30th, 2020, regarding the suspension and status of your loans. Generally, these letters are expected in mid-April.
During this time, any payments that you make on your student loans will go directly toward the principal, instead of interest. That will help you pay off your loans faster, if you choose to do so.
You can get refunds for any payments after March 13th!
If you made a payment on your CARES-eligible loan after March 13th, you can request a refund from your loan servicer. Of course, this is money you will eventually have to pay back… but if you’re in an extreme financial emergency and need that money, you can reclaim it.
You will still be eligible for loan forgiveness.
If you are working toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness or Income-Driven Repayment forgiveness, your suspended payments will still count as if you had made that payment on time. It will still give you credit toward your loan forgiveness.
Collection of defaulted loans has been suspended.
If you have defaulted on federal student loans, you need to know that the Department of Education has stopped collecting on defaulted student loans. They are not garnishing wages or offsetting tax refunds or Social Security benefits right now.
If your payments were garnished for student loan debt after March 13th, you can get refunded. You can call the Education Department’s Default Resolution Group at 1-800-621-3115 for more information.
If you are working on loan rehabilitation, missing payments during the pandemic will not count against you.
Watch out for CARES Act scams!
Some people have reported that they have received calls from the federal government demanding money in order to suspend the payments. There is no fee for this service, and the federal government will not reach out to you in this way. The CARES Act suspension is automatic and does not require you to do or pay anything.
Don’t forget about other forms of federal student loan relief!
If you are low income or disabled, you may be eligible for other forms of student loan relief. For example, you may be eligible for income-based repayment plans that lower your payments to $0/month and offer loan forgiveness… or you may be eligible for total student loan debt forgiveness based on a disability.
What about private student loans?
The federal government has held most student loans issued since 2010. However, if you have private student loans, you need to understand that they are not covered by the CARES Act.
In this case, your student loans may be held by private banks or even the schools you attended. They may offer some sort of coronavirus relief for student loans but they are not required by law to do that.
To see what student loan relief is available from those lenders, you will need to reach out to them directly. Many have stated that you may be eligible for deferment or forbearance for up to 90 days, but other relief options may be available.