Senate leaders were still negotiating a massive stimulus package as of press time Tuesday night. But according to a Democratic Senate aide, the measure was not expected to lower student debt by as much as debt cancellation advocates had hoped.
The advocacy groups had embraced Democratic proposals in the House and Senate that called for the federal government to make borrowers’ monthly payments for them while borrowers dealt with the economic fallout of the coronavirus outbreak.
Both plans would have guaranteed that the balance of each federal loan would be reduced by at least $10,000. House Democrats had also proposed paying down the debt of borrowers with private student loans by up to $10,000.
But as first reported by Inside Higher Ed, Republicans objected to the idea.
“Republicans balked at the large-scale cancellation of student loans,” the Democratic aide said Tuesday afternoon. “We pushed until the end, but it’s not happening.”
Instead, under a working draft of the bill, the Education Department would excuse borrowers from making payments for six months, extending the 60-day moratorium U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced last week. Interest would not be charged during that time.
In addition, Scott Buchanan, president of the Student Loan Servicing Alliance, said he’s been told by private debt collectors contracted by the federal government to collect student loan payments that they’ve been told by the Education Department to stop calling or writing those owing money. “Any outbound connection — calls or letters — have stopped for now,” he said.
Politico reported Tuesday that Secretary DeVos will order the collection agencies to indefinitely stop seizing the wages, tax refunds and Social Security benefits of people who are in default — a major wish of the advocates. An Education Department spokeswoman declined to confirm the report Tuesday night but said an announcement on the matter would be made Wednesday morning.