The Biden administration on Friday shared data showing that more than 26 million people have either applied for or automatically qualified for having their student debt forgiven. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo
Jan. 27 (UPI) -- The White House said on Friday that 26 million people have either applied for student loan debt relief or already provided enough information to be eligible, under President Joe Biden's plan.
The Biden administration said that 16 million borrowers' applications were fully approved and sent to loan servicers before a slew of lawsuits forced the Education Department to halt applications in November.
"Millions of those borrowers could be experiencing the benefits of that relief today were it not for lawsuits brought on by elected officials in some of their own states," the White House said.
Biden announced the plan in August, seeking to provide up to $20,000 in debt relief for borrowers earning less than $125,000 per year, protecting borrowers most at risk of delinquency or default because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Friday, the White House said it believes more than 40 million borrowers would qualify for its debt relief program with nearly 90% of the benefits of the relief going to out-of-school borrowers earning less than $75,000 per year.
The Biden administration revealed the numbers as the Supreme Court prepares to hear oral arguments in February in two cases brought by Republican-led states challenging Biden's plan to forgive the debts under the 2003 HEROES Act.
Republicans and other conservative groups said the White House overstepped its authority in using HEROES in canceling that debt, while the White House argued in a filing earlier this month that it was "comfortably" within its authority to do so.
In the meantime, Biden in November continued a pause on student loan payments through June. Those payments would resume 60 days after the pause ends, which is expected to be June 30, or after litigation has been resolved.
Earlier this month, the Biden administration also unveiled a plan that provides a "safety net" for millions of student loan borrowers including more affordable repayment terms and slashing federal loan repayments.