Illinoisans owe a combined $58 billion on their federal student loans, and with Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order leaving some residents unable to work, making payments on those loans can be an impossible task.
Katelyn Teer, a medical technician and Lasik consultant from Springfield, owes over $30,000 in student loan debt and is temporarily out of work. She said she didn’t anticipate a pandemic putting her career plans on hold.
“Well, I thought I would take out these loans, I’ll graduate college, find a job, pay it off in a couple of years, not realizing that was not the case,” Teer said.
She expressed how having to make payments during a global pandemic is not fair.
“I do think it’s a very unforgiving process that they have,” Teer said. “You know, it’s of no fault of our own that we can’t go into work, but yet we’re still asked to continue to pay our bills.”
Lauren Davis, a news producer at WICS Channel 20 News, took out several federal loans for her education totaling $60,000.
Davis considers herself lucky because she can still work and make payments on her student loans and other bills.
“Listen, I’m trying to pay my loans as soon as possible, and the last thing I want to do is defer it for any reason, and thankfully I’m in the position now where we don’t need to defer them, but I feel so sorry for those that do have to,” Davis said.
The U.S. Education Department said it’s here to help people like Teer. It’s allowing anyone with federal student loan debt to suspend their payments for the next two months. Interest rates, meanwhile, have dropped to zero. Borrowers will still need to request a forbearance online or through the phone.
The department is also allowing those who are more than 31 days delinquent as of March 13th to qualify for automatic suspension of payments.
Separately, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has asked employers not to garnish wages for loan payments.
"These are difficult times for many Americans, and we don't want to do anything that will make it harder for them to make ends meet or create additional stress," said DeVos.
"Americans counting on their tax refund or Social Security check to make ends meet during this national emergency should receive those funds, and our actions today will make sure they do."