Education Secretary Miguel Cardona at his confirmation hearing.

The Biden administration announced today it will automatically eliminate five-ish billion dollars of student debt owed by about 300,000 Americans who have severe disabilities that make them unable to earn an income. The loan forgiveness program had already existed, but its rules were so cumbersome that many people fell out of eligibility and had their debt restored, even though they hadn't suddenly become able to pay.

The Education Department said that more than $5.8 billion in student debt will be erased by the move, and that borrowers won't have to apply for loan forgiveness to get the debt relief. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement, "We've heard loud and clear from borrowers with disabilities and advocates about the need for this change and we are excited to follow through on it."

Goddamn, it's good to have people in government who really want to make things work. Bookmark this story for the next time some asshole says government always makes things worse. A hell of a lot depends on who's running the government, now doesn't it?


The Associated Press explains that up to now, the debt relief program's own rules — intended, no doubt, to cut down on fraud — got in the way of actually relieving debt for a lot of disabled folks:

The federal government offers student debt relief for people who are "totally and permanently disabled" and have limited incomes. But the current rules require them to submit documentation of their disability and undergo a three-year monitoring period to prove they're earning little pay.

Tens of thousands of people have been dropped from the program and had their loans reinstated simply because they failed to submit proof of their earnings, however, and critics say the complex rules deter some from applying.

The Education Department listened to disability rights activists who have called for the monitoring period to be dropped, and to make student debt forgiveness automatic for people identified as permanently disabled by the Social Security Administration. So that's exactly what Education will do:

Starting in September, the Education Department will start erasing student debt for 323,000 Americans identified in Social Security records as being permanently disabled.

Borrowers will be notified once they have been approved for relief. All of the loans are expected to be discharged by the end of the year.

Getting rid of the three-year monitoring period will take an actual new federal rule that goes through the usual approval process, with public comments and all. That monitoring has been suspended during the pandemic, and we can't imagine the rule running into any trouble, not even if the department gets a comment from a Schmetsy SchmeVos saying, "I paid off my yacht, so why are you letting people get out of their obligations just because they say they're disabled? They might be faking!"

Haha, we are kidding, the former Education secretary would never write such a note. It's spelled correctly, for one thing.

The AP notes that the program has been a focus of criticism since 2016,

when a federal watchdog agency found that the income reporting process posed an obstacle for borrowers. In 98% of cases in which loans were restored, it was because borrowers did not submit paperwork, not because their earnings were too high, the U.S. Government Accountability Office reported.

Well that's a pretty crap rule, then. You can imagine how it probably got there in the first place, possibly because some jerk got mad when they saw a person in a wheelchair buying new goods at Costco that he thought they didn't deserve.

The AP also points out that during the Trump administration, student debt was cancelled for military veterans with disabilities, but that forgiveness wasn't made available to nonmilitary borrowers.

On a call with reporters, Cardona emphasized that the debt relief wouldn't require any action by borrowers.

This is going to be a smooth process for our borrowers. They're not going to have to be applying for it or getting bogged down by paperwork.

Dare we dream that the Education Department will next fix the bugs in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, for people who take jobs in teaching and other public service? That was another one Betsy DeVos completely fucked up by doing everything humanly possible to prevent any loans from being forgiven, nitpicking paperwork issues and finding any excuse to deny loan forgiveness requests.

As for the $50,000 in immediate debt cancellation per borrower that Sens. Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren have been calling for Joe Biden to enact since the transition, there haven't been any new developments there. Biden has directed the Education and Justice Departments to determine whether he actually has the power to eliminate mass amounts of debt with an executive order as Schumer and Warren have been saying he can.

Cardona said today that discussions of broad student loan forgiveness are "still under way." But in the meantime, he says he's committed to improving other existing debt forgiveness programs that are more targeted, like today's action.

OK, what if Biden were to declare a state of emergency at the border and make Mexico pay our student loans? Can't see anything wrong with that.

[AP]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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