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Biden administration alerting borrowers in line for automatic student debt relief

President Biden answers questions with Education Secretary Miguel Cardona as they leave a White House event on Oct. 17 about the beta test of the student debt relief portal. (Susan Walsh/AP)

The Education Department has begun notifying an estimated 8 million student loan borrowers of their eligibility to have up to $20,000 of their loans automatically canceled under President Biden’s debt relief plan.

Those borrowers, whose income information the department has on file, will not have to apply like the vast majority of people seeking to have their debts canceled. They either recently filled out the federal financial aid form, or FAFSA, or are enrolled in an income-based loan repayment plan. Eligible borrowers will receive an email from the Education Department with more information.

Anyone eligible for automatic relief can opt out of the debt cancellation program, and the department is encouraging people who wish to do so to contact their loan servicer before Nov. 14. The agency expects to begin processing relief after that date. Borrowers eligible for automatic relief can fill out an application if they want the cancellation processed sooner.

The administration has said more than 40 million people are eligible for the loan forgiveness program. Most will have to apply for the program, with 12 million signing up so far, the president said.

Applying for Biden’s student loan forgiveness? Here’s what to know.

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Key details on Biden’s student loan forgiveness

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White House officials say it always was the administration’s intention to give borrowers the option of taking part in the president’s program. The issue gained attention last month after a conservative lawyer in Indiana filed a lawsuit to block the program, claiming debt cancellation would force him to pay higher state taxes because Indiana plans to tax federal debt relief as a form of income.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre dismissed that claim, pointing out to reporters that “anyone who does not want to get debt relief can opt out.”

A federal judge denied the Indiana lawyer’s request for a preliminary injunction in that case, citing the opt-out provision. The lawyer has since amended his complaint. In a court filing Tuesday, the Education Department said 102 borrowers have already opted out of the relief program as of Monday.

The administration also is fighting other challenges to the forgiveness plan.

The Education Department’s outreach to borrowers eligible for automatic relief comes a day after Biden officially launched the application for one of his signature economic programs. The department opened the form over the weekend as part of a beta test, hoping to find and remedy any glitches on the site.

Borrowers have largely praised the simplicity and ease of the application process, but some people overseas have reported trouble accessing the website. The Biden administration said it is aware of the problem and working on a solution.

Student loan forgiveness

The latest: The Supreme Court will review the legality of President Biden’s debt relief plan, after another appeals court rejected a bid to revive it. To date, Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan is on ice after a Texas judge blocked the student debt relief plan.

Calculate your eligibility: We tackled everything you need to know about the debt relief plan. Use this calculator to see how much of your student loan debt can be forgiven. Here’s what to expect in the student loan forgiveness application.

The opponents: What is happening to student loan forgiveness? A federal appeals court temporarily halted the student debt relief program. Six Republican-led states are also suing to overturn President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan. An Indiana lawsuit was the first significant legal action seeking to invalidate Biden’s policy.

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