What to know about the application for Biden’s student loan relief

Joe Biden
US President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference with Miguel Cardona, U.S. secretary of education, on Aug. 24, 2022. (Bonnie Cash/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

It’s hard to imagine a more anticipated form than the one tens of millions of federal student loan borrowers will need to complete to qualify for President Biden’s debt relief plan. On Tuesday, senior administration officials revealed new details about the application. Here’s what we know:

When the application is coming: The Biden administration has said repeatedly its debt relief application would be available in early October. In a call with reporters, senior administration officials dropped the “early” but promised, “We will make the form available in October,” and said they are “working hard to make sure the form can handle the traffic we anticipate.”

In a legal filing on Friday, the department said it “will not discharge any student loan debt under the debt relief plan prior to October 23, 2022.”

The application will be available through Dec. 31, 2023.

Where the application will be posted: Officials said the application will be housed at a .gov website, and published in both English and Spanish.

What the application will ask for: As U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona told NPR a few weeks ago, the application, which officials shared with reporters on Tuesday, is quite simple. It requires only basic information, including name, birth date, Social Security number, phone number and an e-mail address.

Borrowers will not need what’s known as an FSA ID to log into the application, nor will they need to upload any documents, including tax records.

Will borrowers need to prove they meet the plan’s income requirements? Instead of having to provide documents that verify that you, as an individual, earned less than $125,000 in 2020 or 2021 or, as a couple, less than $250,000, the application simply asks borrowers to check a box to “certify under penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States of America that all of the information provided on this form is true and correct.”

A senior administration official told reporters that the U.S. Department of Education will closely match the information applicants provide with loan and income information it already has on file. In case of discrepancies, the department “will work with borrowers to secure additional documentation.”

The official said roughly 95% of borrowers should meet those income thresholds, though it’s not clear how many the department will flag for additional income verification.

How long will it take the department to process each application? When asked by NPR how long borrowers who fill out the application will have to wait before they see their debts canceled, one senior administration official said, “a matter of weeks.”

Timing matters because the department wants to discharge as many debts as possible before student loan payments resume in January.

In September, Cardona told NPR, “I will tell you, [by] January 1 when [loan repayment resumes], we have to have all that set up. So we know that, between October and before the loans restart, not only is the information going to be needed by all borrowers, but we’re going to have to be done with that process.”

On Tuesday’s call with reporters, a senior administration official backed-up Cardona’s timeline, saying the department plans to quickly process applications in November and December to discharge debts and limit borrower confusion come January.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.
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