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Attorney General Nessel Urges Senate to Pass Legislation to Ensure Relief for all Federal Student Loan Borrowers Impacted by COVID-19 Pandemic

LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has joined a coalition of 29 attorneys general in urging the U.S. Senate to provide relief for all federal student loan borrowers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) currently only covers federal student loans owned by the federal government, excluding nearly 8 million borrowers whose federal student loans are owned by private entities.

“For many people across this nation, paying for a college education was challenging before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now those challenges have multiplied as we continue to navigate through this crisis,” Nessel said. “The Senate in Washington D.C. needs to do the right thing and ensure relief for all students whose loans are supported or guaranteed by the federal government—regardless of who owns them. These students filled out their FAFSA forms, accepted the aid offered by the federal government, and now shouldn’t be left behind due to a technicality.”

In March 2020, Congress passed the CARES Act, which provides financial relief for Americans, including student loan borrowers, impacted by the global pandemic. Under the CARES Act, student loan borrowers do not have to make payments and interest will not accrue on their loans through Sept. 30, 2020. The CARES Act also suspends involuntary collection activities and negative credit reporting through Sept. 30, 2020. While this relief is critical, the CARES Act only applies to federal student loans held by the federal government.

Nearly 8 million federal student loan borrowers have Perkins loans that are held by schools, or commercially-held Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFEL) loans that are held by financial institutions. While the federal government supports or guarantees these loans against default, borrowers were denied CARES Act relief. These borrowers are struggling with the pandemic just as other federal student loan borrowers are, but do not have relief options under the CARES Act solely because of the entity that owns their loan.

In their letter—submitted Wednesday, the coalition urges the Senate to provide the same relief currently available to borrowers whose federal student loans are owned by the federal government, including a temporary suspension of payments, a 0% interest rate, and the suspension of involuntary collections. The coalition also calls for the relief measures to apply retroactively if borrowers have already made payments. The attorneys general state that members of the Senate can support added relief as part of a stand-alone bill – the Student Loan Fairness Act, S.4237 – recently introduced by Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Jack Reed of Rhode Island, or as part of the larger coronavirus relief package currently being debated in the Senate.

In addition, recognizing that the impact of the pandemic will be long-lasting, the coalition calls on Congress to implement longer-term solutions for struggling borrowers. Such measures include extending the temporary suspension of payments past Sept. 30, 2020 and requiring student loan servicers to evaluate borrowers for income-driven repayment plans once they resume payments.

Attorney General Nessel joins the attorneys general of Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin in submitting this letter.

A copy of the letter is available here.