The Department of Education announced Thursday that it will cancel student loan debt for over 300,000 borrowers with severe disabilities.
The program, set to erase over $5.8 billion in total debt, will begin in September and apply to over 323,000 borrowers classified as having a “total and permanent disability” by the Social Security Administration (SSA), the Education Department announced. Borrowers will now receive automatic discharges of their debt, whereas previously needed to fill out applications.
“Today’s action removes a major barrier that prevented far too many borrowers with disabilities from receiving the total and permanent disability discharges they are entitled to under the law,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in the announcement.
The department will also work to remove both the three-year monitoring period for people who received the discharge and earnings information provision requirements because of failures to maintain adequate paperwork.
The Department of Education canceled student debt in March for over 40,000 disabled Americans who faced reinstated debt as a result of failures to respond to earnings information requests.
“We’ve heard loud and clear from borrowers with disabilities and advocates about the need for this change and we are excited to follow through on it,” the announcement states. “This change reduces red tape with the aim of making processes as simple as possible for borrowers who need support.”
President Joe Biden made student debt relief a core component of his presidential campaign, releasing a comprehensive plan exempting certain borrowers from federal student loan repayments. Biden has faced pressure from progressive members of the Democratic party such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sens. Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren, to cancel student debt altogether or forgive much larger amounts.
Biden extended the moratorium on student loan repayments to September 2021 on his first day in office.
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