News about COVID-19 changes by the hour; some states are slowly allowing businesses to reopen while others are not. You may be under orders not to practice, or been told it’s OK to do so again, with appropriate precautions. It’s a confusing time, and may be especially troubling if you’re paying student loans taken out for massage therapy school.
If you can’t practice — or won’t practice, because you feel it’s not yet safe — and thus have no money coming in from massage therapy sessions, what are your options for facing those student loan payments?
The editors of MASSAGE Magazine have curated the following resources to help connect you to the most up-to-date information about paying your student loans during this time.
The CARES Act
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, signed into law in March and then extended in August, has placed most federal student loans into “administrative forbearance”; monthly payments are not required from March 13 to Dec. 31, 2020. (If you already made a payment between March 13 and April 10, you can contact your lender about having it refunded.) This forbearance will not count against your credit record.
If you can afford it, you can also opt out of the administrative forbearance and keep making payments during this time. This option can help pay down the balance of your loan faster, as interest will not accrue during the forbearance period.
Important note: Eligible federal student loans are automatically put into forbearance at no additional charge to you; so if you receive a call or email offering forbearance if you pay a processing fee, it’s a scam. (Use the FTC’s complaint assistant to report it.)
Visit Coronavirus and Forbearance Info for Students, Borrowers, and Parents for answers to many other frequently asked questions about student loan processing during COVID-19.
Forbearance for Privately Serviced Loans
If your student loan is not federally owned, you will need to contact your loan provider to find out if it is offering any assistance during this time and what the terms are; for example, Navient currently offers up to three months with no payment required (but interest still accrues during that time).
If you’re not sure whether your loan is federally owned, check out this list — it contains phone numbers and websites of loan servicers for Department of Education-owned loans.
More Federal Help on the Way?
As of May 16, according to Forbes, a new bill, the HEROES Act — Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act — has passed in the House of Representatives.
The HEROES Act is a $3 trillion stimulus plan intended to provide relief to the U.S. economy, but it also contains help for people with student loans. If passed — which requires passing in the Senate, then signing into law by President Trump — the HEROES Act would, among many other things:
- provide $10,000 in loan forgiveness for federal student loan borrowers;
- provide $10,000 in loan forgiveness for private student loans;
- extend the student loan forbearance specified in the CARES Act through Sept. 2021; and
- extend CARES Act coverage to certain loans that had been excluded.
StudentAid.gov, an official government website, has answers to many frequently asked questions about student loan payments and modifications.
StudentAidPandemic.org offers free guidance to students, families and borrowers. You’ll find information on how the coronavirus affects obtaining aid as a student, as well as how it is affecting loan repayment.
This article from Money magazine gives some important tips, such as double-checking that your financial institution is properly handling loan forbearance or forgiveness programs for which you are eligible — for example, checking your statements to verify that your interest rate and payment dates reflect the new terms.
CNN discusses how “Federal student loans will be cheaper than ever.”
Check Back for Updates
The editors of MASSAGE Magazine will update this page continuously as new information about paying student loans becomes available. For more COVID-19 resources, visit our coronavirus resource page for massage therapists.
About the Author
Allison M. Payne is the associate editor of MASSAGE Magazine. Her coronavirus coverage includes “Massage Schools, Students and Coronavirus: An Interview with Michele Renee of the AFMTE.”