(Washington, DC) – Today, Mayor Bowser announced that the Student Loan Ombudsman at the Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking (DISB) has already helped DC residents eliminate more than $1 million in federal student loan debt through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. She encouraged more residents to apply for loan forgiveness under this program before the October 31, 2022 deadline, and apply before December 31, 2023 to a U.S. Department of Education (ED) program that forgives up to $20,000 in student debt.
“This Public Service Loan Forgiveness temporary waiver program has been an important lifeline for public servants,” said Mayor Bowser. “Thanks to the Biden Administration and through the execution of the DC Student Loan Ombudsman, hardworking public servants are finally getting a fair shot.”
The Student Loan Ombudsman helps borrowers navigate the PSLF temporary waiver program, which is for public service employees who work in federal, state, and local governments, along with Active-Duty military, and non-profit workers.
The PSLF program has existed since 2007, and public servants who enrolled in the program that year were eligible to have all their loans forgiven by 2017. Yet the number of borrowers approved for forgiveness after working in the public sector for a decade was abysmally low until President Biden began fixing the program in 2021. The PSLF waiver program was created on October 6, 2021 with the hopes of drawing more workers into the PSLF program and streamlining the existing flawed process. The temporary waiver is a time-limited change to PSLF program rules that allows borrowers to receive credit for past periods of repayment that would otherwise not qualify for PSLF.
Prior to Fiscal Year 2022, only one person who contacted the Student Loan Ombudsman had received Public Service Loan Forgiveness in the District, with that borrower having more than $211,000 in federal student loans forgiven. This past year, awareness for the program and waiver expanded dramatically, resulting in 15 residents who averaged $70,000 in federal student loan forgiveness each.
“This is a testament to the incredible work of Student Loan Ombudsman Ricardo Jefferson and his team at DISB,” said DISB Commissioner Karima Woods. “Ombudsman Jefferson enlisted everyone not only across DISB, but also through all DC agencies to spread the word about this unique and temporary waiver program. We look forward to continuing to advise the public about what to look for in all aspects of the student loan process – from taking loans out, to applying for college scholarships and financial aid, to understanding the positives and pitfalls of financing higher education.”
The PSLF temporary waiver program is ending on October 31, 2022, and District residents who have completed 10 years of public service are encouraged to submit their applications immediately to be able to have their federal student loans forgiven.
The PSLF temporary waiver program is part of a series of actions by the Biden administration to help working and middle-class borrowers reduce student loan debt. Another program will forgive up to $20,000 in student debt for income-qualified borrowers (Pell and non-Pell grants). The ED estimates 8 million borrowers may be automatically eligible based upon its own income data records, and on October 17, opened up an application portal to capture borrowers whose income data it doesn’t have. Borrowers are advised to apply by mid-November in order to receive relief before this payment pause expires on December 31, 2022.