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Biden admin starts student loan forgiveness process: Here’s what we know

(NEXSTAR) — The day has finally come — well, almost.

After weeks of waiting, the White House appears to be gearing up to forgive the federal student loan debt of millions of Americans after alerting borrowers Thursday about what to expect through the process.

First, it’s important to know whether or not you qualify for this one-time loan forgiveness. This will depend on the type of loans you have, whether you received a Pell Grant, and your income in 2020 or 2021. If you meet the qualifications, you’ll receive up to $10,000 in forgiveness, or $20,000 if you ever received a Pell Grant.

Since President Joe Biden announced the widespread forgiveness plan in August, the White House and the Department of Education have said the process would begin “in early October.” Borrowers were encouraged to sign up for an email notification that would alert them about the forgiveness process.

The first email to those borrowers who signed up for notifications was sent Thursday, two days before October begins.

The email doesn’t give a firm date on when the application will open, but it does outline what the application process will entail.

Sometime in the coming days, the Education Department says it will launch a “short and simple” application. You won’t need to provide any supporting documents or use your Federal Student Aid ID to submit the application, according to Thursday’s email.

After your application has been submitted, it will be reviewed to determine if you qualify for debt relief, and the Education Department will “work with your loan servicer(s) to process your relief.” Though you don’t have to submit any documents, the department notes that borrowers may be contacted if “additional information” is needed.

The Education Department went on to warn borrowers to be wary of scammers. Any company that contacts you saying they will help you get your loans discharged or forgiven for a fee is running a scam — there is no fee for this federal student loan forgiveness. Only the Education Department and your loan servicers will handle your loan forgiveness.

Nearly 8 million borrowers may not have to apply for loan forgiveness, the Education Department announced previously. Instead, because the department already has their updated income data, these borrowers will be able to get relief automatically.

Those who apply should see relief within four to six weeks, according to the Education Department. If you apply before Nov. 15, officials say forgiveness should be applied to your account before the payment pause ends on Dec. 31. Your student loan servicer will notify you once relief has been applied to your loans, according to the Education Department.

Additionally, if you’ve been making voluntary payments on your loans since March 2020, you are likely eligible to have those payments automatically refunded. More details can be found here.

Once the Education Department does make the application available, borrowers will have until the end of December 2023 to apply.

A lawsuit was filed earlier this week challenging Biden’s loan forgiveness. Shortly after the email was sent to borrowers, six Republican-led states announced they are suing the Biden administration in an effort to halt forgiveness as well. There are more than 2 million people within those states that are expected to qualify for loan forgiveness, a White House fact sheet shows.

It’s unclear if these suits will impact the process.

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