The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act was signed into law by the President on March 27, 2020. The CARES Act suspends the collection of student loans owned by the federal government, including interest, through September 30, 2020. It does not apply to student loans that are not owned by the Department of Education. In addition, borrowers who are already qualified under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, or Income-Driven Repayment program should be credited for these months as if their payments were being made, even if the payments are suspended during this time.
The student loan provisions of the CARES Act are retroactive, and apply to payments due as of March 13, 2020. If you made payments after March 13, you can contact your loan servicer to request a refund of these payments if needed.
If you had your payments on auto-draft with the Department of Education, or your payments are in default and they were being garnished from your paycheck, those payments will be automatically suspended for this time period. If you wish to reestablish auto-draft payments, you will need to reschedule your payments again in August, before they become due again.
The CARES Act also suspends the interest rate on applicable loans at 0% through September 30. If you, as a borrower, continue to make payments on your loans during this time, your whole payment should be credited towards your principal balance, which helps you pay off your debt faster.
If you have been on an income-driven repayment plan and your income has changed dramatically since the outbreak of COVID-19, you can also recalculate your payment. After September 30, your payments will resume at your new qualifying amount. You can apply for the income-driven repayment plan or reapply by recertifying your income at studentaid.gov/idr.
The CARES Act is not applicable to privately owned student loans, or to Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL loans) or Federal Perkins loans that are not owned by the Department of Education.
If you have private student loans, you may be able to consolidate your loans to qualify under the CARES Act. However, if you are considering consolidation, you should be aware that there may be some negative consequences that accompany consolidation such as a higher interest rate, or an increase in your principal balance due to the interest being capitalized on your account.
If you have private student loans, or loans owned by a private institution, you still may have some forbearance or deferment options, but you need to contact your loan servicer directly to discuss those options. Be prepared for long hold times, as student loan servicers are being inundated with these types of requests.
If you wish to read more about the CARES Act, you can access the entire document at congress.gov.