One map shows how many student-loan borrowers could have gotten Biden's debt relief before lawsuits blocked his plan

One map shows how many student-loan borrowers could have gotten Biden's debt relief before lawsuits blocked his plan
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  • The White House released data showing how many student-loan borrowers applied for or were deemed eligible for Biden's debt relief.
  • Per the data, 26 million applied or were deemed eligible, and 16 million of them were sent to loan servicers for discharge.

Millions of student-loan borrowers could have gotten reductions to their balances by now if lawsuits didn't block relief — and new data show just how many would have benefitted.

At the end of August, President Joe Biden announced a plan to cancel up to $20,000 in student debt for federal borrowers making under $125,000 a year. Given the income threshold, the relief could not be entirely automatic, which is why the Education Department launched an online application form on October 17 that required borrowers to take just five minutes to fill out their basic information, like their names, emails, and Social Security numbers.

But just days later, the plan was quickly halted due to two conservative-backed lawsuits that blocked the implementation of the plan. Following the rulings, the Education Department closed the online form — meaning it could not accept any new applications — and it will remain closed until the Supreme Court makes a final decision on the legality of relief (it will hear oral arguments to the cases on February 28).

The White House released data on Friday morning showing how many borrowers applied, or were deemed eligible, for Biden's debt relief plan before the legal challenges. In California, for example, 2,315,000 borrowers applied or were automatically considered eligible for the relief, and 1,473,000 of those applications were fully approved and sent to loan servicers to process the discharge.

This map shows how many borrowers, by state and Washington, DC, applied or were automatically deemed eligible for relief:


In total, per the fact sheet, 26,260,000 borrowers submitted applications or were automatically eligible, and 16,486,000 of those applications were sent to loan servicers for processing.

"Unfortunately, less than a month after we published our application, court challenges brought on by Republican officials and special interests blocked us from accepting more applications, or from discharging debt for those borrowers who had been fully approved," Bharat Ramamurti, deputy director of the National Economic Council, told reporters on a Thursday press call ahead of the data release.

"The data that we're releasing today shows that only because of Republican officials and special interests' flawed legal campaign, millions of eligible borrowers are being denied the relief that they need, including hundreds of thousands of those officials' own constituents who applied for and were fully approved for relief," Ramamurti added.

The Supreme Court will be taking on two lawsuits that blocked Biden's debt relief. One of them was filed by six GOP-led states who argued the loan forgiveness would hurt their states' tax revenues, along with student-loan company MOHELA. And the other lawsuit was filed by two student-loan borrowers who sued because they did not qualify for the full $20,000 amount of relief.

Both cases argued that Biden does not have the authority to use the HEROES Act of 2003 to cancel student debt, which gives the Education Secretary the ability to waive or modify student-loan balances in connection with a national emergency, like COVID-19. Still, the White House continues to express confidence in its authority, and Ramamurti said during the press call that the administration is not considering a backup plan should the Supreme Court strike Biden's relief down.


"Obviously, the Supreme Court will weigh in on that soon," he said. "But we are not deliberating or considering any other kind of alternative approach. We're fully committed to the approach that the Secretary of Education used in this case, and we're confident in our legal authority."