Kyra Hahn had been checking her student loan account daily when the number she had been waiting for finally appeared: zero. Zero principal. Zero interest. Zero amount due.

The librarian in Kansas was skeptical.

After years of fighting for debt cancellation through a popular federal program for public servants, Hahn, 48, had grown weary. Even after she saw her account balance, Hahn wouldn’t let it sink in until she received a confirmation email from her loan servicer and saw the zero balance reflected on the Education Department’s website.

“Wow, what a beautiful Thanksgiving blessing,” said Hahn, who has received more than $50,000 in federal loan forgiveness this month. “I’m grateful for myself and for many others who have fought for this moment.”

Hahn is among the first wave of people to benefit from a temporary expansion of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which cancels outstanding federal student debt held by public servants after 10 years of on-time payments.

More than 30,000 borrowers are receiving an estimated $2 billion in debt relief in this initial round, according to the Education Department. Of that group, at least 10,000 have already had their balanced canceled, while the remainder will have a clean slate in the coming weeks.

In October, the department said it would temporarily allow all payments that eligible borrowers made on federal student loans to count toward the forgiveness program. The decision allows participants to sidestep the program’s rigid rules to receive debt relief, but only until Oct. 31, 2022.

The department said 965,000 borrowers who are working toward forgiveness will see an increase in their payment count. That’s about 75 percent of the people who have indicated their interest in the program by submitting an employment verification form.

Before now, there were few success stories in the loan forgiveness program because of its design and execution.

Congress created the program in 2007 to entice college graduates to pursue careers in teaching, law enforcement and government — public service fields that traditionally pay relatively low wages. The rules are complex and the guidance has been minimal.

To qualify, borrowers must make 120 on-time monthly payments for 10 years to have the remaining balance canceled. They must work for the government or certain nonprofit organizations. They must have loans made directly by the federal government. And they must be enrolled in specific repayment plans, primarily those that cap monthly loan payments to a percentage of their income.

Until recently, the Education Department did little to help people navigate the program. Instead, the agency relied on student loan servicers — the middlemen who collect payments on the government’s behalf — to guide borrowers. But many complained of receiving poor advice from servicers that led them to believe they were following the rules of the program when they were not.

In light of those revelations, congressional Democrats created a temporary fix in 2018 to aid public servants at risk of missing out on forgiveness due to enrollment in the wrong repayment plan. A Government Accountability Office audit of the short-lived fix found scores of borrowers were stymied by the confusing terms.

Still, the program helped some borrowers inch toward forgiveness, including Hahn. The 2018 program brought her four years closer to debt cancellation.

Hahn had spent years believing she was making progress in the program under the guidance of loan servicers, she said. It took three years and countless calls to learn the truth. Not only was she in the wrong plan but she also had to consolidate her loans from a defunct bank-based lending program. Years of progress were wiped away.

In her frustration, Hahn became an advocate. She started a Facebook group in 2017 to help other librarians wade through the public service program, providing a platform for accessible advice and encouragement.

“We were all struggling with how to get through this process, and we were supposed to be information guides and information professionals,” Hahn said. “I’m sorry, but if we’re struggling, then there’s a problem with this program.”

Public Service Loan Forgiveness has shaped so much of Hahn’s professional, and sometimes personal, life. When she was laid off last year at the height of the pandemic, Hahn scrambled to find another job that would qualify for the program.

She landed a position in her hometown of Denver that was slated to last two months. It was too risky. She had come too far. So when Hahn received a permanent job offer from a library six hours away in Kansas, she and her husband decided it would be the best choice, even if it meant they’d apart.

“It’s been hard to be away from family,” Hahn said. “I’m out here on my own. I took the job because I wasn’t certain how long the loan forgiveness process would take.”

By July, Hahn had actually exceeded the 120 payment requirement of the program, had submitted her application for forgiveness and was awaiting a response. FedLoan Servicing, the company administering the program for the government, was behind on processing applications and updating accounts.

But after the waiver was announced last month Hahn received a notice from the company that her payment count had increased as a result of the new program. Hahn said she found the notice puzzling and wondered whether it would disrupt her bid for forgiveness.

From the outset of the waiver, excited and anxious borrowers have bombarded loan servicers with questions, some of which the companies couldn’t answer as they awaited guidance from the Education Department. The federal agency has released more details in the last month and acknowledged that it is still working on some guidelines.

Richard Cordray, who heads the department’s Federal Student Aid office, wrote a letter to borrowers earlier this month assuring them of the agency’s commitment to the program and asking them for patience.

“Please understand that complex changes of this magnitude are hard to process and execute. They require large-scale data and processing work, which takes time,” Cordray wrote. “We are working as quickly as possible to update your account and give you clear and accurate information. This may take several months. We may not be able to answer specific questions right away. But we will get the changes made.”

Last month, the Education Department convened a rulemaking committee to consider regulatory changes to the public service program, many of which are featured in the temporary waiver. The agency said the proposed changes are informed by the more than 48,000 comments it received on improving the program.

Hahn was among a handful of people given a chance to share their experience and suggest changes to the public service program at a rulemaking session last month. Even as her own journey comes to an end, she intends to keep fighting for an easier path for others.

With the burden of her debt lifted, she now plans to help her husband tackle his.