The Department of Education launched a beta test of its website Friday allowing federal student loan borrowers to begin submitting applications for some debt relief.
Applications won’t be processed until the site officially launches later this month, but borrowers who submit an application during the beta testing period will not need to reapply, an Education Department spokesperson said.
“This testing period will allow the department to monitor site performance through real-world use, test the site ahead of the official application launch, refine processes, and uncover any possible bugs prior to official launch,” the spokesperson said.
Biden announced his student debt relief plan in August. It will provide up to $10,000 in debt cancellation for borrowers who earn less than $125,000 a year and couples who file taxes jointly and earn less than $250,000 annually. Pell Grant recipients, who make up the majority of borrowers, would be eligible for an additional $10,000 in debt relief. The overall plan is expected to help more than 40 million borrowers, the administration said.
NBC News has reached out to the Education Department for comment.
The launch of the site, reported by CNN, comes ahead of the formal application period for student debt relief, slated to begin later this month and run through Dec. 31, 2023, the website says. The Education Department previously said that applications would available in early October.
The application form requests a borrower’s full name, Social Security number, date of birth, and contact information and includes an income-related question for 2020 or 2021 to verify the applicant’s eligibility.
The Education Department will work to determine an applicant’s eligibility, the site says, and once approved, it will notify borrowers that their applications were sent to loan servicers to process debt relief. Those loan servicers ultimately will inform borrowers that relief has been applied, in addition to providing any details about outstanding loan balances and monthly payment updates.
A senior administration official told reporters during a call earlier this week that they expect to be able to process the applications for “millions of Americans” before repayments start on Jan. 1 and that the “vast majority” of borrowers who get their applications in by mid-November should see their debt forgiven before the repayment deadline.
The official said the administration has been working with its existing contractors and has brought on additional support staff to make sure they have the necessarily capacity to be able to handle the expected flood of applications.
“We are aware of how big this project is that we’re working on and how important it is for 40 million borrowers and their families and communities, and how much excitement there’s going to be, and we’re planning for that, and I feel very good about where we are in our preparations,” the official said.