Illinois Expands Payment Relief for Student Loan Borrowers

New statewide totals: 33,059 cases, 1,468 deaths

Illinois residents who are struggling to make student loan payments could soon get some relief.

On Tuesday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the state has secured relief options for student loan borrowers who weren’t previously covered by the federal CARES Act, which provides relief to those with federal loans, but not to those with private loans or federal loans not owned by the federal government.

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The state has secured relief options with 20 private loan servicers, which could provide relief to more than 138,000 residents, according to Pritzker’s office.

“At this unprecedented time of financial hardship, it was essential to find a way to provide relief to all student loan borrowers who are struggling financially due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Deborah Hagan, secretary of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, in a statement.

Illinois residents who have commercially owned Federal Family Education Program Loans or privately held student loans who are struggling to make payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic will be eligible under the new initiative.

Borrowers in need of assistance should contact their student loan servicer to identify the options that are appropriate to their circumstances. According to the governor’s office, relief options include:

— Providing a minimum of 90 days of forbearance

— Waiving late payment fees

— Ensuring that no borrower is subject to negative credit reporting

— Ceasing debt collection lawsuits for 90 days

— Working with borrower to enroll them in other borrower assistance programs, such as income based repayment.

If regulated student loan servicers are limited in their ability to take such actions due to investor restrictions or contractual obligations, servicers should proactively work with loan holders whenever possible to relax those restrictions or obligations, according to the governor’s office.

If a borrower is experiencing trouble with their student loan servicer, they should file a complaint with the IDFPR Division of Banking (217-785-2900), contact the Attorney General’s Student Loan Helpline (800-455-2456), file a complaint with the Office of the Illinois Attorney General, or file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Borrowers can visit the Department of Education’s National Student Loan Data System to determine the types of federal loans they have and who their servicers are, or call the Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid Information Center at 800-433-3243 or 800-730-8913 (TDD). Borrowers with private student loans can check the contact information on their monthly billing statements.

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported Tuesday an additional 1,551 cases of COVID-19 and 119 deaths, bringing the totals to 33,059 and 1,468, respectively. Across the state, 96 of Illinois’ 102 counties have been impacted, according to IDPH.

During his daily press briefing Tuesday, Pritzker was asked about plans for his stay-at-home order, which is set to expire April 30. The governor said he’s “working on making changes” to the order, and that residents should not expect mass openings of businesses on May 1.

While there will be changes to the stay-at-home order, Pritzker says it is working. “To remove it, as I see some other governors may want to do, to remove it entirely is to simply open everything back up to infection,” he said. 

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Tuesday she expects Pritzker to extend the order beyond April 30, which is “no longer a viable date” for it to be lifted. “I would expect an extension of the stay at home order … through sometime in May,” Lightfoot said.

The order could also be extended into June, Lightfoot said. “We are not even close to being out of the woods,” she said.

Pritzker acknowledged that the state is “weeks away” from seeing its peak in the number of cases. “In order for us to truly open things up we need (contact) tracing, we need testing and we need a treatment available, and we need widespread availability of PPE,” Pritzker said. “And we don’t have those things available today.” 

Contact Kristen Thometz: @kristenthometz (773) 509-5452  [email protected]

Coronavirus Prevention Tips and Resources

Officials advise taking preventive measures to slow the spread of the virus, including: 

—Washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water
—Using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
—Sneezing or coughing into a tissue and then disposing of the tissue
—Limiting contact with people regardless of how you feel
—Staying home when you are sick

Symptoms of COVID-19 include, but are not limited to:

—New onset of fever, cough, shortness of breath
—Congestion in the nasal sinuses or lungs
—Sore throat, body aches or unusual fatigue

If you think you have COVID-19:

Call you doctor before showing up at their office. If you have a medical emergency and need to call 911, tell the operator that you think you have COVID-19. If possible, wear a mask before medical help arrives or presenting at a doctor’s office. More advice for those who think they have COVID-19.

Additional resources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Illinois’ COVID-19 website
Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) website
—IDPH COVID-19 hotline: 800-889-3931
—IPDH COVID-19 email link
City of Chicago COVID-19 website
—City of Chicago COVID-19 hotline: 312-746-4835
—City of Chicago COVID-19 email link

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