Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh joined the call Thursday to protect federal student loan borrowers from further financial distress during the national state of emergency brought on by COVID-19.
“The Department of Education has the authority to help Americans who are struggling with crippling debt burdens; the small changes they have made are not enough,” Frosh said in a statement.
In the face of the pandemic, many businesses have shuttered, causing lost wages and leaving more people unemployed.
In a letter sent Thursday, 27 attorneys general reminded U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos that more than 43 million U.S. citizens are responsible for student loan debt, and that many of them were struggling to make payments even before the economy’s downturn.
“The economic ramifications of the COVID-19 virus will exacerbate this problem and significantly increase the number of federal student loan borrowers who enter delinquency or default,” they wrote.
President Trump announced earlier this month that interest on federal student loans would be waived during the pandemic.
DeVos announced Wednesday that the department would cease wage garnishments and other “collection actions” until May 12. She also ordered the reimbursement of over $1.8 billion in government benefit offsets to hundreds of thousands of borrowers.
The attorneys general said that they are “encouraged” by DeVos’ decisions, but that more can be done.
Frosh and the other attorneys general are asking for:
- Assurance that all instances of involuntary debt collection, like wage garnishment, be put on pause
- Automatic enrollment of delinquent loan borrowers, and those in loan forbearance, into an income-driven repayment plan at a rate of $0 a month
- Applying all relief eligibility available during national emergencies to all federal loan borrowers, military or not, through the balance of the public health crisis.
They have asked that the same courtesies be extended to individuals with federal loans that are not held by the Department of Education, such as Federal Perkins and Federal Family Education loans.
“These emergency measures are not only necessary, fair, and appropriate for borrowers, but they would also aid in the overall recovery of the nation’s economy,” they wrote.