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Student loan forgiveness: Will the end of the national COVID emergency affect Biden’s plan?

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP /

The White House has announced it will end the COVID-19 national emergency declaration on May 11, which could put an additional blow to President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness program.

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This is because the program uses the HEROES Act, which was enacted in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and provides the authority to provide relief from student loan requirements during specific periods, such as “a war, another military operation or a national emergency, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the Ministry of Education.

When the program was announced in August 2022, the Department of Justice said in a brief supporting the program that the HEROES Act “authorizes the Secretary to address financial hardship resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic by reducing or canceling major student loan balances for a broad class of borrowers.

However, lawsuits against the program argued that the HEROES Act does not authorize the administration to implement the student loan program, as GOBankingRates previously reported.

“The program is therefore an unconstitutional exercise of the legislative power of Congress and must be struck down,” according to the court documents. “In this country, we are not ruled by an all-powerful executive with a pen and a phone. Instead, we are governed by a Constitution which provides for three separate and independent branches of government,” Justice Mark said. T. Pittman, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, argued in his Nov. 10 ruling.

Politico, however, reported on Jan. 31 that the end of the emergency would not affect the student aid program and that administration officials said the program and loan payment pause can “be continue after the official end of the national emergency”.

“Our debt relief plan is needed to prevent defaults and delinquencies as students return to repayment after the payment break ends. The official end of the national emergency does not change this fact. Nor does it change the legal rationale for the plan,” according to the statement from officials that Politco posted on Twitter.

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The Supreme Court is due to hear cases about the program on February 28.

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