(NEXSTAR) — In just a few weeks, millions of Americans will be able to apply for up to $20,000 each in federal student loan forgiveness through the Biden administration. While exact details about the application process haven’t been released, here are three things we know so far.
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, here’s what you need to know about getting federal loan forgiveness.
You may not need to apply
Though most Americans will need to mark early October on their calendar, some will be able to skip applying for their loan forgiveness.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, nearly 8 million borrowers may qualify for relief automatically based on the income data the department already has.
If the Education Department doesn’t have your income data, or you’re unsure if the agency has it, you’ll need to wait for the application to open.
When can I apply?
The student loan forgiveness application will open in “early October,” Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said. An exact date for when that application will open hasn’t been released.
According to Cardona, once you’ve completed your application, you’ll be notified of the “next steps” via email. It’s not yet clear what the application and the next steps will entail.
You’ll have until December 31, 2023, to file for relief.
Until early October, you can register to be notified when the application is made available through the Department of Education by filling out this form.
How soon will I see debt relief?
Cardona previously stated you can expect your relief within four to six weeks after completing the application.
Education Department officials recommend that you apply before November 15 to receive student loan relief before the payment pause ends on December 31.
Your student loan servicer will notify you once relief has been applied to your loans, according to the Education Department.
What else should I know?
If your entire loan balance won’t be erased – which is likely for some 23 million borrowers – President Biden has extended the payment pause through the end of the year. But, come Jan. 1, 2023, interest will begin accruing again, and regular payments will resume. He has indicated the pause will not be extended again.
Borrowers that have been making voluntary payments on their federal student loans during the COVID-19 pandemic are likely eligible to receive an automatic refund on those payments, education officials said. Initially, officials said borrowers would need to request refunds from their loan servicers. Updated guidance from the Office of Federal Student Aid says qualifying borrowers will receive an automatic refund if they meet two requirements: they are approved for debt relief under Biden’s one-time cancellation plan and payments brought the loan balance below the maximum relief they’re eligible to receive.
Officials gave this example: Let’s say you had $10,500 before the payment pause. Since March 2020, you’ve made $1,000 in payments, which brings your balance to $9,500. You’re eligible to receive $10,000 in federal student loan forgiveness, meaning the Department of Education will discharge your balance of $9,500 and refund you $500.
More details about receiving a refund can be found here.