The CARES Act was passed shortly after businesses were forced to close in March 2020 as a precaution against the outbreak of coronavirus. The federal program provided widespread assistance programs to help in times of national emergency. In addition to multiple rounds of direct stimulus, payments CARES also expanded unemployment benefits for independent contractors and part-time gig workers. It immediately froze student loan payments and interest accrual for federally-funded loans.
After almost two years of deferment, the student loan forbearance component of the CARES Act will expire on January 31, 2022. This means that millions of borrowers will have to make payments again. These are the CARES Act expiration FAQs to help you prepare for when your payments start.
CARES: Student Loans and Rent
Public health emergencies that led to lockdowns throughout the country caused widespread furloughs and layoffs in the travel and restaurant industries. The ripple effect was that it was difficult to pay rent or student loans if you don’t have a source of income.
The CARES Act automatically placed all federal loans in forbearance to help student loan borrowers. This means that no payments would be required and no interest would accrue. The original expiration date was September 2020. However, it was repeatedly renewed. It will expire on January 31.
The CARES Act also offered economic assistance to unemployed gig workers, self-employed freelancers, and small businesses, as well as renters. It included a range of loans, grants, and protections that were designed to keep people from falling behind financially during lockdowns.
Cares who cares about CARES
Federal student loan borrowers were immediately relieved by the CARES Act, which allowed them to stop making monthly payments. Anyone who was struggling to pay their federal student loans before the COVID-19 epidemic could request to restructure their payments by either switching to an income-based repayment program or having their loans deferred because of hardship. The CARES Act provisions were different in that they also froze interest accrual so those who took advantage of it did not see their balances increase.
Small businesses also received billions of dollars from CARES. Paycheck Protection Program, also known as PPP loans, offered businesses two rounds of forgivable loans up to 10 weeks of payroll expenses. This was for staff members that they planned to continue employing during the pandemic. The CARES Act expiration provided additional support payments for parents and families who were struggling to pay rent.
Because gig workers and freelancers don’t contribute to unemployment insurance, they are not eligible for regular unemployment benefits. They were however able to receive weekly payments through the Department of Labor’s Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (or PUA). The amount of their benefit was determined based on income reported by the IRS for the previous tax year.
While unemployment benefits are administered by the states, PUA provided federal funding to help provide greater economic security and support. Anyone whose employment was affected due to COVID (e.g. people who can’t telework or who have to take care of a loved one) was eligible to receive higher benefits for longer periods than the states usually offer. In an effort to replace lost income, claimants received additional payments from the federal government. PUA has extended the number of weeks that people can be unemployed several times. There are many state laws that govern the weeks of benefits that people are entitled to.
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Past CARES Act Expiration Extensions
Multiple times, the pause on student loan interest and payments has been extended. The pause was originally set to expire on Sept. 30, 2020. However, it was quickly extended to Dec. 31, 2020, and Jan. 31, 2021. The pause was extended to Sept. 30, 2021, President Biden’s first day of office. He pushed the date back to January 31, 2022, in early August.
Biden stated that his latest extension would be the last and it is likely that he meant it this time. Even though the economy is still recovering from the pandemic it has allowed other provisions of the CARES Act to expire. These include the eviction moratorium and additional payments under PUA. Since spring 2021, the Small Business Association (SBA) has not offered additional rounds of PPP loans.
Borrowers will need to make monthly payments at the same interest rates as before the CARES Act expiration was implemented. The current 0% interest rate will expire on January 31 and federal loans will begin accruing interest at the rate that was offered to you when you signed for them.
A billing statement should be received approximately three weeks prior to the due date of your payment. Additional information on payments resuming can be found at studentaid.gov.
Refinancing is a good option if you want to reduce your student loan payments after the freeze. It’s a great time to lock down a lower interest rate, as historically low-interest rates have been in the past. Interest rates will likely rise as soon as the economy picks up.
You might be eligible for public service loan forgiveness (PSLF). depending on the amount of debt you have, if you work in one of these qualifying public service sectors or non-profits, you may want to delay. refinancing can lower your interest rate and help you pay off your principal faster if you are not eligible for PSLF.
The CARES Act, which was passed in March 2020, has been a tool to keep people afloat. It includes increased unemployment benefits, stimulus payments, and a freeze of federal student loan interest and payments. While the CARES Act expiration will cause confusion for borrowers for a time, you can make a plan about how you’ll respond once you start making payments again. You may be able to lower your monthly payments by refinancing your loan now, while historically low-interest rates can help you pay down your debt much faster.