Millions of student-loan borrowers could benefit from President Joe Biden’s broader debt relief plan just weeks before the election.

Biden’s administration published its Spring 2024 Unified Agenda in early July, which outlines deadlines for federal agencies to finalize ongoing rules and priorities.

With regards to the Education Department’s ongoing student-debt relief proposals, borrowers now have a clearer timeline to expect implementation. The department’s broader plan to cancel student debt — proposed after the Supreme Court struck down Biden’s first attempt — is expected to be finalized in October. This timing is in accordance with the department’s previously stated timeline to implement the relief this fall.

Additionally, the department has been working toward a separate student-debt relief proposal for borrowers experiencing financial hardship. The proposed rule is expected to be published in September and would be separate from the department’s broader debt relief plan.

Education Department officials have repeatedly said they were working toward implementing its student-loan forgiveness plan as soon as possible, which it expects would benefit over 30 million borrowers. Specifically, the plan would cancel unpaid interest for 23 million borrowers, fully cancel balances for 4 million borrowers, and give over 10 million borrowers at least $5,000 in debt relief.

At the same time, advocates and some Democratic lawmakers have been pushing the Education Department to make its plan more robust by including an additional relief category for borrowers experiencing hardship, which could include borrowers who have made good faith efforts to repay their debt but financial or medical circumstances prevented them from doing so.

“Failing to finalize a proposal to provide relief for borrowers experiencing hardship would result in millions of borrowers — including most recent graduates, many low-income borrowers, borrowers of color, and borrowers with disabilities — being left out of the necessary debt relief,” advocacy organizations wrote in a January letter to the Education Department. “This cannot be an option.”

Still, even if the department finalizes the relief by October, it’s highly likely to encounter legal challenges that could delay or block the plan. The election also poses additional challenges — should former President Donald Trump win the election, any relief Biden’s administration is working to implement will likely be thrown out.

“These historic steps reflect President Biden’s determination that we cannot allow student debt to leave students worse off than before they went to college,” Undersecretary of Education James Kvaal previously said in a statement. “The President directed us to complete these programs as quickly as possible, and we are going to do just that.”



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