In response to a petition by the IAFF and other stakeholders, the U.S. Department of Education is overhauling its Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program in an effort to provide relief for those who fell through the cracks. The changes will greatly benefit fire fighters and EMTs who have student loans. The IAFF has been working with the Department of Education, the Biden administration and other stakeholders to make changes to the PSLF program in order to provide its members with student debt relief.

The PSLF program cancels student loans for individuals, including fire fighters and emergency medical personnel, who have worked in public service for 10 years and have made 120 payments on their loans. Unfortunately, the program as administered had significant shortcomings that resulted in a denial rate of over 90% among applicants. The Department of Education has estimated that this overhaul will help more than 550,000 borrowers and will allow roughly 22,000 borrowers to be eligible to have their loans forgiven automatically.

Under the new rules, which will be implemented in the coming weeks, the Department of Education will establish a temporary period during which borrowers may receive retroactive credit towards the 120 payments needed for loan forgiveness during a waiver period. The wavier will last until October 31, 2022, and authorize all prior payments from borrowers to count towards loan forgiveness, including payments that did not previously qualify.

Borrowers who took advantage of the federal pause on student loan payments during the COVID-19 pandemic will receive credit towards the required payments as if they had continued to make them, as long as they are still employed full time as public servants.

Additionally, the Department of Education is also reviewing all denied applications to the PSLF program in order to address errors with those who applied and incorporate them into the program. Fire fighters and EMTs currently in the program, previously denied from the program or not ever entered into this program qualify for retroactive credits during the waiver period under this new rule.

These changes are only the first to the PSLF program. The Department of Education intends to make further improvements to the program through the rulemaking process, in which the IAFF is actively participating.

As these changes are implemented, the IAFF will provide information to members on how to take advantage of the program.

More information is available from the Department of Education here.