By Paul LeBlanc, CNN
(CNN) – The U.S. Department of Education announced Thursday that it would cancel pending student loans of $ 5.8 billion for borrowers unable to work due to permanent disabilities.
More than 320,000 borrowers with “total and permanent disabilities” will benefit from the move, the agency said in a press release, and the hurdles for relief will automatically be raised for those who qualify.
“Today’s action removes a major barrier that has prevented far too many borrowers with disabilities from receiving the full and permanent disability discharge to which they are legally entitled,” Education Minister Miguel Cardona said in a statement.
The statement goes on to say: “From day one I emphasized that the Ministry of Education is a service agency. We serve students, educators, and families across the country to ensure everyone has educational opportunities. We have heard loud and clear from borrowers with disabilities and advocates about the need for this change and we look forward to implementing it. This change is reducing red tape with the aim of making the processes as simple as possible for borrowers in need of assistance. “
The announcement brings a significant overhaul of a student loan program that has long been maligned for its complex rules, including the need for borrowers to provide proof of disability and undergo three-year monitoring of their income.
The Ministry of Education announced on Thursday that qualified borrowers will be automatically identified through a data comparison by the social security authority and that the agency will permanently abolish the monitoring period – which the Biden administration has waived this spring – in October.
House Education and Labor Chairman Bobby Scott, a Democrat, celebrated the announcement in a statement Thursday. “In just eight months, the Biden Administration has granted student loan facilities to hundreds of thousands of eligible borrowers and restored the Department of Education’s focus on serving the best interests of students, families and our economy,” he said.
“I look forward to working with the government to continue to support students and make higher education accessible and affordable for all Americans,” added Scott.
Since taking office, President Joe Biden has been pressured by the Democrats to demand comprehensive debt relief, including a requirement to cancel student debt of $ 50,000 per borrower. Biden has so far resisted the pressure, but has said he will support a move by Congress to cut $ 10,000 per borrower.
Earlier this month, the Biden administration extended the pandemic-related suspension of federal student loan payments for the last time to January 31.
Biden has also directed Cardona to write a memo to the president’s judicial authorities to cancel debt. An executive measure that broadly grants federal student loans would be unprecedented, but a memo from attorneys at Harvard Legal Services Center and its Project on Predatory Student Lending says the Department of Education has the authority to do so.
The CNN Wire
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