Student Loan Forgiveness: Will Ending the National COVID Emergency Affect Biden’s Plan?

Biden Rail Strike, Washington, United States - 02 Dec 2022
Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP /

The White House announced it would be ending the COVID-19 national emergency declaration on May 11, which could put a further dent in President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness program.

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Indeed, the program uses the HEROES Act, which was enacted in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks and provides authority to grant relief from student loan requirements during specific periods, such as “a war, other military operation, or national emergency, such as the present COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the Education Department.

When the program was announced in August 2022, the Justice Department said in a brief of support of the program that the HEROES Act “authorizes the Secretary to address the financial hardship arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic by reducing or canceling the principal balances of student loans for a broad class of borrowers.”

However, lawsuits against the program have been arguing that the HEROES Act does not allow the administration to implement the student loan program, as GOBankingRates previously reported.

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“The Program is thus an unconstitutional exercise of Congress’s legislative power and must be vacated,” according to the court documents. “In this country, we are not ruled by an all-powerful executive with a pen and a phone. Instead, we are ruled by a Constitution that provides for three distinct and independent branches of government,” Judge Mark. T. Pittman, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, argued in his Nov. 10 decision.

Politico, however, reported on Jan. 31 that the end of the emergency would not affect the student relief program and that administration officials said the program and the loan payment pause can “continue after the formal end of the national emergency.”

“Our debt relief plan is needed to prevent defaults and delinquencies as student transition back to repayment after the end of the payment pause. The national emergency formally ending does not change that fact. It also does not change the legal justification for the plan,” according to the officials’ statement Politco posted on Twitter.

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The Supreme Court is set to hear cases about the program on Feb. 28.

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About the Author

Yaël Bizouati-Kennedy is a full-time financial journalist and has written for several publications, including Dow Jones, The Financial Times Group, Bloomberg and Business Insider. She also worked as a vice president/senior content writer for major NYC-based financial companies, including New York Life and MSCI. Yaël is now freelancing and most recently, she co-authored  the book “Blockchain for Medical Research: Accelerating Trust in Healthcare,” with Dr. Sean Manion. (CRC Press, April 2020) She holds two master’s degrees, including one in Journalism from New York University and one in Russian Studies from Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, France.
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