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The CARES Act Suspends Federal Student Loan Payments

May 22, 2020

Updated 10/20/20

On March 27, 2020, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Included in the legislation are new rules for student loan relief.

The legislation provided a six-month automatic payment suspension for any student loan held by the federal government. This six-month period ended on September 30, 2020, but on Aug. 8, 2020, suspension of loan payments, stop collections, and waive interest on ED-held student loans was extended until Dec. 31, 2020.

If you have a federal student loan, you don’t need to contact your loan servicer to request a suspension; the freeze will be applied automatically to any eligible federal student loan. However, you can choose to keep making your monthly student loan payments during the suspension period if you wish. Interest will not accrue during the suspension period. In effect, the interest rate is set to 0%.

Below, find answers to questions about these COVID-19 emergency relief measures and the resulting flexibilities for federal student loans:

Only Federal Loans Qualify

Only student loans held by the federal government are eligible for payment suspension. This includes Direct Loans (which includes PLUS Loans), as well as Federal Perkins Loans and Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans held by the Department of Education. Private student loans are not eligible.

Impact on Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

Under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program, borrowers who work in an eligible public service job and make 120 on-time student loan payments are eligible to have the remaining balance on their federal Direct Loans forgiven. Under the CARES Act, the freeze on student loan payments will not affect the 120-month running period for purposes of the PSLF program. In other words, each month of the suspension period will still count toward a borrower’s 120 payment tally, even if the borrower does not make any payments during the freeze period.

How to Contact Your Loan Servicer

Your federal loan servicer is the company that handles your loan’s billing and provides related services. If you want to contact your loan servicer for any reason you should try to do so online or by phone. If you don’t know the name of your loan servicer or how to contact the company, you can visit or call 1-800-4-FED-AID for assistance.

Find more coronavirus and forbearance info for students, borrowers, and parents on the Department of Education’s official Federal Student Aid website here.