President Joe Biden’s administration is relying on a post-9/11 law to cancel $10,000 in student debt for millions of Americans.
The law, known as the HEROES Act, was first proposed in 2003 and was intended for military members serving the U.S. in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The text of the law allows for the modification of federal student loan rules in the midst of “a war or other military operation or national emergency.”
“The HEROES Act, first enacted in the wake of the September 11 attacks, provides the Secretary broad authority to grant relief from student loan requirements during specific periods (a war, other military operation, or national emergency, such as the present COVID-19 pandemic) and for specific purposes (including to address the financial harms of such a war, other military operation, or emergency),” the DOE’s general counsel Lisa Brown wrote to DOE Secretary Miguel Cardona.
“In present circumstances, this authority could be used to effectuate a program of categorical debt cancellation directed at addressing the financial harms caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Secretary could waive or modify statutory and regulatory provisions to effectuate a certain amount of cancellation for borrowers who have been financially harmed because of the COVID- 19 pandemic,” the memo reads.
The DOE’s determination that the HEROES Act can be used in Biden’s latest student loan cancellation announcement comes as the Biden Administration appears poised to extend the COVID public health emergency. (RELATED: ‘A Milestone’: Biden Administration Wipes Out $5.8 Billion Of Student Loan Debt From Corinthian Colleges)
The Department of Health and Human Services noted that it would issue a 60 day notice if it planned against extending the emergency, which is slated to run out on Oct. 13. That 60 day timeline passed earlier in August, Axios previously reported.
Biden also announced the cancelation of up to $20,000 in student debt for Pell Grant recipients on Wednesday. To qualify for the Biden Administration’s student loan relief plan, an individual must make less than $125,000 a year or $250,000 as part of a household.
He issued a “final” extension on the student loan debt payment pause, as well.
Wednesday’s announcement could see debt entirely cancelled for 20 million individuals, a senior administration official said, and a total of “43 million federal student loan borrowers could benefit” from the plan.