(WASHINGTON) — Biden administration officials on Tuesday previewed the Department of Education’s much anticipated student loan forgiveness application process, which they said would be “easy,” “straightforward” and resistant to fraud.
But the officials did not signal when the loan cancellation applications would be available online beyond saying it would be sometime in October. That is a delay from an earlier timeline that the forms would be released by early October.
In a call with reporters organized by the White House, senior administration officials said that they expect it will take “a matter of weeks” after someone applies for them to receive loan forgiveness.
Still, the officials reiterated that eligible borrowers should apply by mid-November to ensure their loan amounts are canceled before repayments resume on Jan. 1, 2023, after a nearly three-year pause during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We hope and expect to deliver student debt relief to millions of Americans before the loan repayments restart,” one official said on the call.
The government has urged people to double-check their contact information online to ensure they receive timely updates when the application is ready.
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Under the forgiveness plan, people who made less than $125,000 in the 2020 or 2021 tax year — or less than $250,000 as a couple — will be eligible to cancel up to $10,000 in federal student loan debt or up to $20,000 for people with Pell grants, for low-income families.
The program, which President Joe Biden announced in August, is expected to apply to 43 million Americans — and 20 million could have their debt completely wiped out, the White House estimates.
The debt cancellation, which is also being challenged in court, is expected to cost around $400 billion, the Congressional Budget Office has said, though the administration disputes this assessment.
On Tuesday, administration officials said that once the application is released, eligible borrowers will fill out a “simple” two-part form that will be available in both English and Spanish, via computers and mobile devices, and accessible to borrowers with disabilities. The White House also released a sample version of that form.
Borrowers will not need to log in with a preexisting aid ID or upload any documents to the link, the officials said. They will have to provide their first and last names, Social Security number, date of birth, phone number, email address and income based on their 2020 or 2021 taxes.
At the bottom of the form, borrowers must review and sign a certification statement under penalty of perjury, which the administration officials stressed was one part of their defense against fraud.
“This is a multi-step process for preventing fraud,” one administration official said, adding that “all borrowers who apply will have to attest under penalty of perjury, which is enforceable with hefty fines and jail time, that they meet the income cutoff.”
The officials said there were “strict fraud prevention measures in place” for the loan forgiveness but declined to detail all of them.
A borrower will not have to mark whether or not they received a Pell grant, the officials said. The DOE already has borrowers’ loan information.
According to the White House, applicants who have a federal loan and are likely to “exceed” the income cutoff will be required to submit additional information to confirm that they meet the income requirement. The government will reach out to borrowers directly in the cases where they need more information.
The officials told reporters that steps have been taken to ensure the government can meet the volume of expected demand for the loan forgiveness.
“We’ve been working very hard with our existing contractors to make sure that they have the capacity that’s necessary to serve the public,” one official said. “We’ve also brought in additional support for web traffic and web volume. So we are aware of how big this project is that we’re working on and how important it is for 40 million borrowers and their families and communities and how much excitement there’s going to be.”
Asked about the recent decision to scale back some parts of the loan cancellation program — specifically regarding Perkins loans and Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL), which are handled by private banks — an administration official on the call did not dispute that the change was made to help protect the overall policy from pending lawsuits.
“Our guiding principle here is that we are trying to reach as many borrowers as possible and to do that as quickly and easily as possible,” the official said.
The official said the government was assessing other options for borrowers of Perkins loans and FFELs.
The loan forgiveness application will be available through December 2023.
ABC News’ Cheyenne Haslett contributed to this report.
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