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615,000 student-loan borrowers in public service have now gotten $42 billion in debt wiped out under temporary reforms — and getting relief going forward will soon be a lot easier, Biden’s Education Department says

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  • The Education Department said 615,000 borrowers have gotten $42 billion in relief since October 2021.
  • That’s a result of temporary reforms to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.
  • The department also said it will make the whole PSLF application available online for the first time.

President Joe Biden’s Education Department just got the latest sign that its temporary reforms to a student-debt relief program are working.

On Monday, the department announced that 615,000 borrowers in public service have received $42 billion in student-loan forgiveness since October 2021. That’s a result of temporary reforms the department announced for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, which forgives student debt for government and nonprofit workers after ten years of qualifying payments.

As the department wrote in its press release, only about 7,000 borrowers had been approved for the program prior to its reforms. That’s why it implemented a limited-time waiver that allowed past payments to count toward borrowers’ forgiveness progress, including those that were previously deemed ineligible for relief. The waiver expired on October 31, 2022, and the department is continuing to process the forms that were submitted prior to that deadline.

“Since Day One, the Biden-Harris Administration has worked relentlessly to fix a broken student loan system, including by making sure we fulfill the promise of Public Service Loan Forgiveness for those who have spent a decade or more serving our communities and our country,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement.

“The difference that Public Service Loan Forgiveness is making in the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans reminds us why we must continue doing everything we can to fight for borrowers and why families cannot afford to have progress derailed by partisan politicians,” Cardona added.

Along with the latest figures on relief to date, the department also said in its press release that it will be making the application process for borrowers a lot easier going forward. Expected to go into effect July 2023, the department will allow borrowers to complete the entire application process online for the first time, and borrowers will no longer need to fax or mail in their applications with a wet signature certifying their public service employment.

“Allowing borrowers to submit e-signatures for themselves and request e-signatures from their employers will significantly decrease processing time,” the release said. 

Borrowers will also be able to digitally track their PSLF status in the My Activity section of their account, allowing them to verify on their own whether their paperwork has been processed. Previously, strict paperwork requirements have blocked many borrowers from getting relief, and these changes are intended the streamline the process and prevent paperwork backlog.

Along with digitizing the application process, the department announced permanent reforms to the program in October following the waiver’s expiration. Those included a one-time account adjustment that would give borrowers one more shot to ensure their payments are up to date if they missed the waiver deadline, but as Insider previously reported, the deadline for borrowers to actually see those changes got pushed back due to a lack of increased funding from Congress for the Federal Student Aid office. 

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Read the original article on Business Insider