From the Office of U.S. Congressman Jim Himes:
For years, students and borrowers across the country have been anxious about their ability to pay off their loans. The spread of the coronavirus has exacerbated these fears and created new ones for millions of students who are rapidly accumulating unexpected travel, food and online learning costs. The CARES Act does not solve all these problems, but it provides real relief for students impacted by this crisis and the college communities that serve them.
Student Loan Relief
The CARES Act suspends payments for student loan borrowers with federally-held loans (Direct Loans and FFEL loans that are held by the U.S. Department of Education) through September 30, 2020. No interest will accrue on such loans during that time. The bill also freezes forced collections on loans, meaning that collection companies cannot garnish wages or seize tax refunds and Social Security benefits, and protects borrowers from negative credit reporting during this time.
Student borrowers will continue to receive credit toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness, Income-Driven Repayment forgiveness, and loan rehabilitation. Starting in August, student loan borrowers will begin to receive notices to help inform them that their regular loan payments will resume at the end of September. These notices are intended to provide a transition period to help borrowers stay on track as regular loan payments begin again and to enroll in other relief options (such as income-driven repayment) at such time.
On April 9, the Department of Education released the first tranche of funding to colleges and universities required by the CARES Act. Through the newly created Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, colleges and universities will receive $14 billion, of which $6.28 billion is specifically designated for emergency cash grants to students. Using this funding, schools, like those listed below, will offer certain students financial aid grants to cover expenses such as food, housing, course materials, technology, health care and child care. Schools can also use the fund to purchase technology to expand remote learning capabilities and defray expenses such as lost revenue.
Minimum Allocation to be Awarded for Emergency Financial Aid Grants to Students
Housatonic Community College
Norwalk Community College
Sacred Heart University
University of Bridgeport
University of Connecticut
The second funding stream, the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, allows Governors to distribute $3 billion to address the needs of elementary and secondary schools and institutions of higher education. Colleges and universities that have been severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic or have been deemed essential for carrying out certain education services can receive emergency support grants at the Governor’s discretion.
Other Higher Education Benefits
Students in the Federal Work Study program can continue to receive work-study payments from their institution if they are unable to work due to workplace closures. Relief also exists for students who must drop out of school due to COVID-19. Students will have the portion of their student loan taken out for the semester (or equivalent) canceled. Further, students who received a Pell Grant or subsidized student loan will not have those types of financial aid counted toward their lifetime limits.
The CARES Act fails to address many of the urgent problems facing students and borrowers. For example, few protections are in place for the millions of Americans that owe private lenders. We should do more to prevent exploitation in this market and allow borrowers to refinance at low rates. But it’s important to remember that this bill is the beginning, not the end, of our response to the coronavirus pandemic. In the short term, the CARES Act will give a much-needed boost to Connecticut’s students, colleges and universities.
I will continue to update you about the bill’s implementation at Himes.House.Gov/CoronaFAQ. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any further questions about the bill’s applicability to you or any related concerns.