As some pandemic aid ends, here are ways student loan borrowers can still get relief

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As the coronavirus pandemic carries on and the economy recovers, some U.S. workers still face financial uncertainty.

For those struggling to keep up with their student loan debt, there are relief options available from banks, lenders and the federal government. If you can’t pay your loans or soon won’t be able to, one of these programs may be able to help.

Federal student loans

In August, the U.S. Department of Education extended the federal student loan payment pause through Jan. 31, 2022. The pause was set to expire Sept. 30, 2021, and the administration has made it clear that this is the last extension. For an extra four months, federal student loan borrowers and borrowers with defaulted Federal Family Education Loan Program loans can take advantage of several relief measures

Federal student loan interest rates will remain at 0% through the end of January 2022. Borrowers don’t need to take any action to put this into place.

Federal student loan borrowers also have extended relief when it comes to monthly student loan payments. Payments on Direct Loans owned by the Department of Education are paused until Jan. 31, 2022. This payment suspension is also automatic.

This suspension does not make your student loan debt disappear, but it does allow you to save on monthly payments through January. If you’re working toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness, you will continue to receive credit during the suspension period if you work full time for a qualifying employer.

Borrowers can also choose to continue making payments during this temporary deferment. If you want to continue your regularly scheduled student loan payments, your entire payment will be applied to your principal balance, which helps you pay down your debt faster.

If you use automatic payments, these may have been automatically suspended at the start of the deferment period. Contact your servicer if you’d like to start automatic payments again.

  • Suspended collections activities

Collections activities for federal student loans have been paused since March 2020, and defaulted loans from the Federal Family Education Loan Program were added to the list of eligible loans in March 2021.

Private student loans

Private student loan debt isn’t covered under the presidential action — there are no government protections that require private lenders to waive interest or defer payments for borrowers.

However, your private lender might offer a hardship relief program or temporary student loan forbearance. If you can’t pay your private student loans because the pandemic has affected your income, reach out to your lender immediately.

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