The CARES Act: Expanded Relief for Federal Student Loan Borrowers During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Led by efforts from U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Congress recently passed the bipartisan Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help support workers, families, businesses, communities and more struggling due to the coronavirus pandemic and response. The CARES Act was signed into law on March 27, 2020, and includes provisions that will help student loan borrowers struggling with the crushing burden of student debt. For most borrowers with federal student loans:
🔘 Student loan payments are suspended and interest waived until September 30. This means you do not have to make loan payments until October 1, and your loan will not become past due (like going into delinquency or default).
✅ This is retroactive to March 13, so if you have made a payment since then, you can either contact your student loan servicer for a refund or allow this payment to remain applied to your loan balance.
✅ Suspended payments will still count as “qualifying payments” if you are working towards Public Service Loan Forgiveness, income-driven repayment forgiveness, or loan rehabilitation.
🔘 Involuntary collection has been suspended. This includes any garnishing of wages, tax refunds, or Social Security benefits. If borrowers continue to see their wages garnished, they should contact their employer to ensure this stops, and garnishment will be refunded.
🔘 Negative credit reporting has stopped for borrowers who are already behind, to help protect their financial history.
Currently, these benefits apply to borrowers with most federal student loans but do not include Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) loans held by commercial lenders or Perkins loans held by institutions:
🔘 If you aren’t sure what type of loans you have or if your loans are covered, you should contact your student loan servicer or visit StudentAid.gov and log in to see who your loan holder is. If your loan is listed as “DEPT OF ED/SERVICER NAME” (i.e. DEPT OF ED/GREAT LAKES) then your loan is covered by the CARES Act.
🔘 If your loans do not qualify, some lenders and loan holders are still offering relief options, so you should still contact your student loan servicer.
🔘 If you have a FEEL or Perkins loan, you can consolidate your loans to become eligible for the suspension of payments, interest, and collections. More information on consolidation is available at StudentAid.gov. The commercial holders of FFEL loans and institutions holding Perkins loans have been offering short-term (90 day) forbearance, but this type of forbearance does count toward forgiveness and is shorter than the six months offered under the CARES Act. Additionally, interest for these loans is not being temporarily set at 0% as under the CARES Act. Therefore, consolidating FFEL and Perkins loans (which converts the loans into a Direct Loan) may be the best option to obtain the full benefit of the CARES Act.
Senator Murray is committed to building on the steps taken in the CARES Act to strengthen critical relief for student loan borrowers — including keeping up the fight to make sure future legislation provides relief that will cover all federal student borrowers and help borrowers make progress on their loans and reduce the burden of their debt.