SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today, as part of a bipartisan multistate coalition, urged the U.S. Senate to pass the Student Loan Fairness Act (S. 4237), which will extend Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act relief to all federal student loan borrowers. Currently, the CARES Act relief applies only to one subset of federal student loans, Direct Loans, leaving nearly 8 million combined borrowers of commercially-held Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL) and institutionally-held Perkins Loans without coronavirus relief options. In their letter, the coalition expresses their support for S.4237 and highlights the importance of providing all federal student loan borrowers with critical relief options amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
“All student loan borrowers are having to face the economic hardships and realities of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Attorney General Becerra. “We have a student loan crisis in this country and that debt doesn’t just disappear when the jobs do. Extending student loan debt relief now is one of the critical and effective things that Congress can do to help Americans stay afloat in the face of the current public health and economic crises. That is why we are calling on Congress to pass S. 4237 to ensure that all federal student loan borrowers receive the critical relief needed to stay afloat during these devastating times.”
Americans hold more than $1.7 trillion in student loans while also facing surging unemployment. The official unemployment rate hit 14.7 percent earlier this year and many more Americans remain underemployed. With over 44 million individuals out of work, student loan borrowers are being hit hard by the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. S. 4237 acknowledges that borrowers of privately-held federal student loans face the same financial need and uncertainty over their future as borrowers of Direct Loans and establishes equal borrower protections – regardless of which entity now holds the loan.
In the letter, the coalition urges that in addition to passing S. 4237, the Senate should formulate long-term and sustainable solutions for student loan borrowers and immediately require servicers of federal student loans to evaluate struggling borrowers for income-based repayment plans.
Attorney General Becerra has ardently defended student borrowers. In June 2018, Attorney General Becerra filed a lawsuit against Navient and its subsidiaries for unlawfully misleading student loan borrowers, engaging in illegal collections practices, and steering borrowers to more costly repayment options. In October 2018, and again in August 2019, Attorney General Becerra called on Secretary DeVos and Federal Student Aid Acting Chief Operating Officer Jim Manning to address the 99 percent denial rate for Public Service Loan Forgiveness applications. In June 2020, he filed a lawsuit against Secretary DeVos and the U.S. Department of Education (ED) for its failure to implement the Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. In July 2020, Attorney General Becerra led a coalition of 23 attorneys general in filing a lawsuit against Secretary DeVos and ED challenging their action to unlawfully repeal and replace the 2016 “borrower defense” regulations.
Attorney General Becerra joins the attorneys general of Arkansas, Illinois, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, the District of Columbia, and Guam in sending the letter.
A copy of the letter can be found here.