Student loan forgiveness approval letters are being sent out. Here’s what they mean.

About 16 million borrowers who had applied for the Biden administration’s student loan forgiveness program received letters as of last weekend letting them know they had been approved for debt relief.

However, the letter says a number of lawsuits “have blocked our ability to pay your debt at this time.” The approvals come after two courts blocked the plan, placing legal hurdles in front of a federal program that promised to forgive up to $20,000 in student debt for about 40 million eligible Americans.

“Your application is complete and approved, and we will discharge your approved debt if and when we prevail in court,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in the letter.

About 26 million people had requested the loan relief effort before the court rulings, which effectively prevented the Biden administration from accepting new requests. The Biden administration is appealing those rulings, but it’s unclear if the cases will be decided.

On Tuesday, the Biden administration said it was extend the break on the repayment of student debt. This freeze was due to expire on December 31, which meant that borrowers would have started repaying in January. With the latest extension, the break will now be pushed back until June 30, 2023 at the latest.

“I’m confident our student debt relief plan is legal. But it’s on hold because Republican officials want to block it,” President Biden wrote on Twitter. “That is why [Education Secretary Miguel Cardona] extends the suspension of payments until June 30, 2023 at the latest, giving the Supreme Court time to hear the case in its current term.”

The Department for Education’s letter says it will notify applicants “when there are new developments”.

Loan repayments

The letters help “people understand a little better why they haven’t gotten their debt forgiven yet,” noted Mike Pierce, executive director of the advocacy group Student Borrower Protection Center. “It doesn’t completely remove the very real economic anxiety that people with student loans are feeling right now.”

The irony of getting loan forgiveness approved while being told the plan might not go ahead due to legal challenges was not lost on recipients, who took to the media social media to comment on mixed posts.

“Getting the student loan forgiveness approval letter but saying we really can’t forgive your loans right now is peak 2022,” one person wrote on Twitter.

What is approved for relief?

The Department of Education sent the letter to 16 million people who requested the cancellation of up to $20,000 in student debt, telling them they had been given the green light — at least from the Biden administration . However, the letters do not inform borrowers of the amount of their loans that have been written off.

But due to court rulings, debt cancellation can only go forward if the Biden administration wins its legal challenges. The Education Department “will quickly process their redress once we win in court,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

I asked for forgiveness but I did not receive a letter. Why?

The Biden administration had approved 16 million claims before the court rulings, and those people are now getting alerts about it. Some of those candidates may not have received the initial alert emails, but may soon receive an alert in their inbox, according to a Nov. 19 tweet from Cardona.

“Starting today, applicants and others seeking relief through the Biden-Harris administration’s student debt relief plan will begin receiving updates. Don’t worry if you don’t get an email today – more are coming,” Cardona said in a tweet.

But the other 10 million people who applied but weren’t approved before court rulings could wait longer. “The Biden administration is in a tough spot right now — they’re not allowed to approve requests until something changes in court,” Pierce noted.

And the roughly 14 million eligible borrowers who have yet to apply are no longer able to do so through the Department for Education’s online application, which has been shut down in response to court orders.

When can I see debt relief?

It’s unclear because it depends on the timing of calls from the Biden administration, Pierce noted.

Student debt relief advocacy groups on Tuesday applauded the White House’s decision to extend the repayment pause until June 2023, which will give eligible borrowers financial breathing room over the coming months to as the legal challenges progress.

“This extension means struggling borrowers will be able to keep food on their tables over the holiday season – and for months to come – as the administration does all it can to fend off baseless and retrograde attacks on families of indebted workers,” Pierce said in a statement Tuesday.

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