Loan relief deadline looms for public service workers
State officials are worried that public servants with student loans might not know about an Oct. 31 deadline that could help them get more — or all — of their debt forgiven.
Driving the news: Under a federal program, government and nonprofit workers can have their student loan debt canceled after they make 120 qualifying payments.
- A waiver approved last year lets a wider variety of past payments count toward that goal — but borrowers must start their application by the end of this month.
Why it matters: Stephanie Sampedro, Washington state's student loan advocate, told Axios Seattle she is concerned that many eligible people might be unaware of the deadline.
- "I do really fear that a lot of public employees in Washington are going to miss it, and potentially retire with tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt they otherwise could have gotten forgiven," she said.
By the numbers: State officials estimate that as many as 988,000 Washingtonians may work in a public service job that could qualify for federal loan forgiveness.
- That's roughly a quarter of the state's civilian workforce.
The latest: The temporary changes to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program mean that people's past late or partial payments can now count toward the 120-payment forgiveness threshold.
- Under the one-time waiver, people can also apply for forgiveness even after they have left public service, or if they have loans other than direct federal loans.
- There are other changes, too — but on Nov. 1, the rules revert back to the way they were before. That includes making those who have already left public service ineligible to apply.
Be smart: To avoid missing the deadline, people need to use the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Help Tool to generate an application form no later than Oct. 31. The form doesn't need to be fully signed, submitted and approved by then — that can happen later.
Between the lines: Some applicants will need to consolidate Perkins or FFEL loans into direct consolidation loans.
- That process would need to be underway by Oct. 31 — as in, you have applied to consolidate — but it doesn't have to be completed by then, according to Sampedro's office.
Of note: Washington residents who need help can fill out this form, or attend a webinar on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday for more information.
The bottom line: You don't need to have everything figured out by Oct. 31, but you do need to start the process now if you want to make sure you don't miss out.