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Brookland Middle School teacher Michelle Taylor with President Biden in September 2021 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Department of Education announced Wednesday that it would temporarily relax rules governing a student loan forgiveness program, making it easier for service members, teachers, nurses and other public servants to qualify for debt relief.

Why it matters: In total, the department estimates that its overhaul of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program will bring over 550,000 borrowers closer to debt forgiveness.

  • It said 22,000 borrowers will automatically be eligible for student loan forgiveness without additional action on their part.

Driving the news: The Biden administration, as part of the overhaul of the program, will now recognize certain payments that previously did not count toward the 120 monthly payments.

  • It will also review denied applications for service errors and other issues, giving people an opportunity to have their rejection reconsidered.
  • The department said borrowers seeking debt forgiveness must submit an application by Oct. 31, 2022.

Background: Congress created the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program in 2007 to help full-time public service workers, like teachers, first responders, members of the military and others.

  • In order to qualify, public service workers had to make 120 monthly payments on their loans with the federal government while working full time for a qualifying employer for 10 years, and their remaining balance would be forgiven.
  • However, the program has been criticized for being exceedingly complex and poorly managed. More than 98% of applicants were rejected because of convoluted rules and sloppy administration, according to the New York Times.

What they're saying: “Borrowers who devote a decade of their lives to public service should be able to rely on the promise of Public Service Loan Forgiveness," Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said.

  • "The system has not delivered on that promise to date, but that is about to change for many borrowers who have served their communities and their country,” he added.
  • “Teachers, nurses, first responders, service members and so many public service workers have had our back especially amid the challenges of the pandemic. Today, the Biden administration is showing that we have their backs too.”

Go deeper: Biden administration will erase student loan debt for people with severe disabilities

Go deeper

Jan 13, 2022 - Health

Teachers in France stage mass walkout over COVID protocols

Teachers denounce the absence of protective materials in schools on Jan. 13 in Paris. Photo: Vincent Koebel/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Teachers across France staged a mass walkout Thursday to protest ever-changing COVID-19 rules in the education sector, which they say fail to protect teachers and students.

Why it matters: Protests took place in towns across the country, forcing schools to close, though officials did not specify how many schools had to close Thursday. Some 58% of teachers in Paris participated, leading to nearly 200 school closures, the mayor's office said.

Pelosi announces bid for re-election ahead of 2022 midterms

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced her bid for re-election Tuesday, amid a deluge of other safe-seat Democrats announcing their retirements.

Why it matters: Pelosi’s announcement follows months of speculation — despite her denials — that she was preparing to leave Congress.

Scoop: Qatar emir to visit White House on Monday

The emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, leaves the White House after meeting President Trump in 2019. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

The emir of Qatar will meet with President Biden at the White House on Monday to discuss Afghanistan as well as contingency plans to provide natural gas to Europe in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Europe's reliance on Russia for 40% of its natural gas is undermining Biden's attempts to coordinate "massive" sanctions to be imposed from both sides of the Atlantic if Russia invades. The White House wants Qatar to help ensure European countries can enforce tough sanctions without risking an energy crisis.