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Biden administration begins notifying approved student loan relief applicants. But the program is still on hold due to multiple lawsuits

November 20, 2022, 8:14 PM UTC
President Biden Delivers Update On The Student Debt Relief Portal Beta Test
President Joe Biden speaks about student debt relief on Oct. 17 in Washington, D.C.
Alex Wong/Getty

Over the weekend, student loan borrowers who applied for President Joe Biden’s one-time student loan began receiving emails that their applications have been approved. But they won’t see their loans forgiven anytime soon.

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona confirmed the emails were being sent to approved applicants. He also said those who applied and have yet to receive an email shouldn’t worry; it takes time to notify millions of people, and the messages will go out in batches.

While the emails will be welcome notices for millions of borrowers, the messages also noted that the relief won’t be immediately reflected in applicant bank accounts due to legal challenges.

“Unfortunately, a number of lawsuits have been filed challenging the program, which have blocked our ability to discharge your debt at present,” the email reads. “We believe strongly that the lawsuits are meritless.”

Biden’s widespread loan cancelation plan has been blocked by two federal courts. On Thursday, the Department of Justice asked the Supreme Court to review the decision of one of the lower courts. The Supreme Court will announce by Wednesday, Nov. 23, if it will hear that case.

“Your application is complete and approved, and we will discharge your approved debt if and when we prevail in court,” the email reads.

The lawsuits have created a web of confusion around the cancelation program. When widespread forgiveness was first announced by Biden in August, the administration encouraged borrowers to apply for relief by mid-November. That would give them enough time to process applications and relief by the time federal loan payments are set to resume in January.

But the legal challenges keep pushing back the implementation date. Right now, it’s not clear when relief will take effect, or if it will be allowed to proceed at all.

Borrowers are now calling on Biden to at least extend the payment pause again until the lawsuits are settled. Other borrowers are confused about whether they should cancel requests for refunds of payments made during the pandemic, or hang tight.

The White House previously announced that 26 million people applied for forgiveness before the application was shut down due to a court ruling. At least 16 million applications have been approved.

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