How long will I need to wait for benefits?
States have been incentivized to waive the one-week waiting period, but it’s unclear how long it will take to process claims — especially with state offices so strained by a flood of them.
The federal government has already waived two months of payments and interest for many federal student loan borrowers. Is there a bigger break now with the new bill?
Yes. Until Sept. 30, there will be automatic payment suspensions for any student loan held by the federal government, and it’s retroactive to March 13. It is hard to contact many of the loan servicers right now, so check your account online in the coming weeks. Once you are logged in, look for the current amount due. There, you should be able to see if the servicer has reset its billing systems so that you are showing no payment due.
How do I know if my loan is eligible?
If you’ve borrowed money from the federal government — a so-called direct loan — in the past 10 years, you’re definitely eligible. According to the Institute for College Access & Success, 90 percent of loans (in dollar terms) will be eligible.
Older Federal Family Educational Loans (F.F.E.L.) that the U.S. Department of Education does not own are not eligible, nor are Perkins loans that your school owns (ask your financial aid office if you’re not sure), loans from state agencies, or loans from private lenders like Discover, Sallie Mae and Wells Fargo. The holders of all those kinds of loans may be offering their own assistance programs.
Within a few weeks, you are supposed to receive notice indicating what has happened with your federal loans. You can choose to keep paying down your principal if you want, and you should contact your loan servicer if that is the case. Then, after Aug. 1, you should get multiple notices letting you know about the cessation of the suspension period and that you may be eligible to enroll in an income-driven repayment plan.
I’m signed up for automatic payments. Will my servicer turn them off by itself during this period?
Yes, that is how it’s supposed to happen, according to information that the Education Department posted.