WASHINGTON — The Biden administration filed its first legal defense of the president's student debt relief plan in court last week, shedding new light on the possible timeline and implementation.
In the Oct. 7 filing, which came in response to GOP-led lawsuits seeking to halt Biden's student loan forgiveness plan, the White House said the Department of Education "will not discharge any student loan debt under the debt relief plan" before Oct. 23.
The White House had previously said the form to apply for student loan forgiveness was likely to open in early October. It's unclear if there is a planned or even tentative opening date for the debt relief application. While some borrowers already have their income information on file with the Department of Education, most people will need to apply for debt relief.
The court filing also included new information about steps the Education Department will take to begin implementing the plan, including "conducting testing of the application form with members of the general public" before its full launch. The department will reach out to borrowers via email to ask if they want to participate in testing, according to court documents.
Biden's plan, first announced in August, will forgive $10,000 of student loan debt for most borrowers earning less than $125,000 individually per year, or less than $250,000 for married couples. Students who received Pell Grants to go to college are eligible for up to $20,000 of federal debt relief.
In late September, six Republican-led states filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration in an effort to halt student loan forgiveness, arguing Biden overstepped his executive powers and that debt forgiveness would negatively affect the states financially.
In Friday's court filing, the White House defended Biden's authority to issue loan forgiveness under the HEROES Act of 2003, which authorizes the Secretary of Education to waive or modify the terms of federal student loans to lift economic burdens during a national emergency.
"This loan forgiveness program is based on the Secretary [of Education]’s determination that such measures are necessary to ensure that 'borrowers subject to the payment pause are not placed in a worse position financially by the COVID-19 national emergency as they restart payments,'" according to court documents.
The Department of Education did not immediately respond to requests for further information.