The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) provided a payment suspension and interest waiver for federally-held student loans, set to expire on
September 30, 2020. The CARES Act specifically directs that the months of the payment suspension
shall be counted towards federal loan forgiveness for borrowers enrolled in Income-Driven Repayment Plans.
On August 8, 2020, President Trump directed the Department of Education to continue the temporary cessation of payments and the waiver of interest on student loans held by the Department of Education until December 31, 2020.
The Executive Memorandum for the Secretary of Education directs the Secretary to implement "waivers of and modifications to the requirements and conditions of economic hardship deferments" pursuant to the Higher Education Act of 1965 to effectuate the continued payment suspension and interest waiver.
What this action fails to address
Notably, the Memorandum does not address whether the three months of payment suspension from October through December will be counted as progress towards forgiveness.
Under the Higher Education Act, periods of Economic Hardship Deferment are counted towards long-term Income-Driven Forgiveness. Still, they are NOT counted towards the 120 payments required to earn Public Service Loan Forgiveness (unless the borrower makes payments of at least the amount required under a standard 10-year repayment term).
Furthermore, an important consequence of economic hardship deferment is the capitalization of unpaid interest at the conclusion of the forbearance period. Under the CARES Act, borrowers were granted an Administrative forbearance, and ED made clear that interest would not capitalize at the end of the forbearance period.
StudentAid.Gov has not been updated
At the time of this writing, the Department of Education has not updated the studentaid.gov website with information regarding the implementation of the August 8, 2020 executive action.
While it's possible the terms of the CARES Act provisions will be extended, it's also possible that many borrowers would be better off entering into repayment upon the termination of the CARES Act forbearance.
It's also likely that further legislative action will be passed that may alter the administration of student loans beyond the EO signed over the weekend.
We will provide an update as more clarity is provided.