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Biden administration now taking applications for student-loan relief: Here’s what to know

The U.S. government on Friday opened a website to let Americans with federal student loans apply for up to $20,000 in debt forgiveness. 

The site comes after the Biden administration said its goal was to create an application that would be “short and simple.” The test application requires just a few minutes to fill out, but could leave some borrowers with questions about the timing for debt forgiveness, among other issues. 

President Biden highlighted the new debt-relief site in a press briefing on Monday, saying the forgiveness program is now open and calling it a “game-changer for millions of Americans.”

About 95% of Americans with college loans are expected to qualify for relief, while the remainder earn too much money and are ineligible. While the program could help about 40 million Americans who are carrying debt from higher education, it has also drawn legal challenges from conservative lawmakers and advocacy groups who are seeking to block the effort. 

Unless those challenges result in a court injunction, the application site indicates the Department of Education is on track “to begin forgiving student loans in November and December ahead of January 2023, when student loan repayment is expected to resume,” noted Benjamin Salisbury, an analyst with Height Securities, in a research note. 

Here’s what to know about applying for student debt forgiveness. 

What is the beta launch?

The Biden administration started testing the application before its official rollout. 

As part of the test, it invited people who qualify for the government’s forgiveness program to “be among the first to apply for student debt relief, by being a tester of the online application NOW before we officially launch,” according a Saturday email from the Department of Education.

You can find the application here.

In a press briefing on Monday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the Biden administration has seen an “overwhelmingly strong response” to the new site since its launch.

If I fill out the beta application, do I need to reapply later?

No, according to the Biden administration. 

“If you submit an application during this period, it will be processed when the site officially launches,” the Education Department said. “You won’t need to resubmit. If you have already applied and received a confirmation email, you do not need to apply again.”

The application isn’t available. What’s up?

The Education Department said the test application “will be available on and off during this beta period.” Try again if you go to the site and it’s not available, according to the agency. 

“Once the application officially opens later this month, it will remain open until December 31, 2023,” it said.

How long is the application?

The application is short, with two sections that require only a few minutes to fill out.

  • The first section requires you to provide basic information about yourself, including name, date of birth, email and Social Security number.
  • The second section is an “attestation” that you qualify for loan forgiveness, including that your income falls below the cutoff for eligibility.

Only individuals who earned less than $125,000 in 2020 or 2021 and married couples with total annual income below $250,000 are eligible for loan relief under the program. 

The application doesn’t require borrowers to upload tax forms or any other documents. 

However, Biden administration officials said there may be cases where some applicants are required to provide more documentation to confirm they are eligible. For instance, borrowers who “are more likely to exceed the income cutoff” may have to provide tax returns or other documents to confirm their income meets the eligibility requirements, an official said.

What happens if I claim to be eligible when I’m not?

The attestation section of the form requires applicants to confirm that they are eligible “under penalty of perjury.” In signing the attestation, applicants are verifying that they earn under the income thresholds set by the program and that they are the person applying for loan relief. 

People who claim to qualify for loan forgiveness, but actually earn over the income limits, could face fines and other problems, including jail time, administration officials have said. 

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