By Katie Lobosco, CNN
About nine million people received an email last month from the Department of Education that mistakenly said their application for student loan forgiveness had been approved, adding to the confusion surrounding President Joe Biden’s debt relief program.
Thus far, no one has received debt forgiveness because the program is blocked by federal courts. But there are some borrowers who were already deemed eligible for debt relief by the Department of Education.
The nine million borrowers who received the inaccurate emails have now started to receive new emails from the government correcting the error. While their applications were received, they have yet to be approved or rejected.
“Due to a vendor error, you recently received an email with a subject line indicating your application for the one-time Student Loan Debt Relief Plan had been approved. The subject line was inaccurate,” reads an email sent Tuesday and obtained by CNN.
But the body of the email, which confirmed receipt of the borrower’s application, was correct.
The emails containing the inaccurate subject line were sent on November 22 and 23.
The Department of Education said in a statement that “communicating clearly and accurately with borrowers is a top priority” and that it is in close touch with the outside vendor, Accenture Federal Services.
A human error led to the email being sent with an inaccurate subject line, according to the company.
Borrowers should not expect to see debt relief unless the US Supreme Court allows the program to move forward. The justices are scheduled to hear oral arguments in February, with a decision expected by June.
If the Supreme Court finds that the forgiveness program is legal, millions of low- and middle-income borrowers will be eligible for up to $10,000 in federal student debt cancellation. Borrowers who received a Pell grant while enrolled in college would be eligible for up to $20,000 of debt relief.
The Department of Education will review more student loan forgiveness applications if and when the government’s case prevails in court, according to the most recent, accurate emails sent to borrowers.
The department received about 26 million applications for student loan forgiveness before the program was halted by a federal district judge in November. The administration has said that it accurately approved 16 million of those applications for debt cancellation — though it has not been able to provide that relief due to the ongoing lawsuits.
In one case that will be heard by the Supreme Court, six Republican-led states argue that the Biden administration does not have the authority to so broadly cancel federal student loan debt.
In another legal challenge, two borrowers who do not qualify for full debt relief say that they were denied an opportunity to comment on the secretary of education’s decision to establish the forgiveness program.
The Biden administration has argued that the lawsuits are meritless. Its lawyers said that Congress gave the secretary of education “expansive authority to alleviate the hardship that federal student loan recipients may suffer as a result of national emergencies” like the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a memo from the Department of Justice.
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