6 Things to Know About Public Service Loan Forgiveness During the COVID-19 Emergency

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On Jan. 20, 2021, the 0% student loan interest rate and suspension of payments on federal student loans owned by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) were extended through at least Sept. 30, 2021. These relief measures began March 13, 2020. 

Check out StudentAid.gov/coronavirus for the latest updates.  

As a reminder, all official and legitimate loan forgiveness options can be found on our site. 

If you’re considering or already participating in Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) or Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness (TEPSLF), you may have questions about how this suspension of payments or other Coronavirus-related changes will impact your progress.

Before we look at those impacts, check out the eligibility requirements for PSLF.


Suspended Monthly Payments

If you

  1. have Direct Loans that are not in default, and
  2. work full-time for a qualifying employer during the extension of the suspension of payment period,

suspended monthly payments will count toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) as if you continued to make regular monthly payments.  You can think of them as $0 payments. You’ll need to submit the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) & Temporary Expanded PSLF (TEPSLF) Certification & Application (PSLF form) to receive credit for your employment during the suspension of payments. Borrowers with in-grace, in-school, and certain deferment, forbearance, and bankruptcy statuses are not eligible for credit toward PSLF. The Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students (HEROES) Act of 2003 provides authority for this action.

Temporary Expanded Public Loan Forgiveness (TEPSLF)

Similarly, you will receive payment credit during the suspension of payments as if you had made real payments—as long as all other TEPSLF qualifications are met. This includes ensuring that both the amount you paid 12 months prior to applying for TEPSLF and the last payment you made before applying for TEPSLF were at least as much as you would have paid under an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan. To confirm your required monthly payment for TEPSLF, contact FedLoan Servicing.


If you made a payment between March 13, 2020, and the end of the payment suspension period, and would like a refund, the payment still counts toward PSLF as long as all other PSLF qualifications are met.

Applying for PSLF

If you reach your 120 qualifying payments during the payment suspension period, you can still apply for and receive PSLF at this time. However, you must be working for a qualifying employer at the time you submit the PSLF application and at the time the remaining balance on your loan is forgiven. If you are eligible for forgiveness, the amount forgiven will be the principal and interest that was due after you made your 120 qualifying payments.


Reduced Work Hours Could Impact Your Eligibility

You must continue to work full-time (30 hours or more per week) for a qualifying employer to have the suspended payments count toward PSLF. You can meet the full-time requirement by being employed part-time for multiple employers, but they must all be qualifying employers.

Illustration of which employers qualify and which employers do not qualify for PSLF. Employers That Qualify: government organizations at any level (federal, state, local, or tribal); nonprofit organizations that are tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code; contractors directly employed by a qualifying employer; and nonprofit organizations that are not tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code but do provide certain types of qualifying public services. Employers That Do Not Qualify: labor unions; partisan political organizations; for-profit organizations (including for-profit government contractors); and nonprofit organization that are not tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) and do not provide certain types of qualifying public services.
Learn which employers qualify for PSLF and which do not.

If you no longer work full-time for a qualifying employer, the suspended payments from the time you went below 30 hours per week or lost your employment (or were laid off or furloughed) will not count toward PSLF. You don’t lose your eligibility for PSLF entirely. If you later meet the qualifying employer and full-time status requirements, payments you make at that point will count toward PSLF and can be added to the count of qualifying payments you had when you originally went below 30 hours per week or lost your employment with a qualifying employer.


Additional Payments Will Reduce Your Amount Forgiven

In most cases, it’s a good financial strategy to make additional payments, if you can, during the 0% interest period. If you are seeking PSLF, however, additional payments may not be in your best interest.

If you make payments during the period of suspended payments, they won’t make you eligible for PSLF sooner. The suspended $0 payments already qualify toward your required 120 PSLF payments, so not making additional payments maximizes the amount to be forgiven.


Receiving Credit During the Payment Suspension

As a reminder, the best way to benefit from and to confirm you are meeting PSLF requirements is to submit your PSLF form annually. Use the PSLF Help Tool to complete your PSLF form. Print it, sign it, have your employer sign it, and submit it to FedLoan Servicing. Keep these signature requirements below in mind before submitting your ECF.

Note: When you visit the FedLoan Servicing website, the timeline for reaching the number of qualifying payments for PSLF may appear to have been extended. This is only temporary. Your estimated eligibility date for forgiveness will be corrected.

Working toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness? Digital signatures from you or your employer must be hand-drawn (from a signature pad, mouse, finger, or by taking a picture of a signature drawn on a piece of paper that you then scan and embed on the signature line of the PSLF Form) to be accepted. Typed signatures, even if made to mimic a signature, or security-based signatures are not accepted. Illustrative example of a signature that is drawn instead of typed for Public Service Loan Forgiveness forms
Working toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness? Digital signatures from you or your employer must be hand-drawn (from a signature pad, mouse, finger, or by taking a picture of a signature drawn on a piece of paper that you then scan and embed on the signature line of the PSLF Form) to be accepted. Typed signatures, even if made to mimic a signature, or security-based signatures are not accepted


Mark Your Calendar for Your IDR Plan Recertification Deadline

It’s important to recertify on time, so that you remain on your IDR plan. If you aren’t on an IDR plan or a plan where your monthly payment amount is at least what you would pay under a 10-Year Standard Repayment Plan, payments you make after the payment suspension period ends won’t count toward PSLF. 

You will not have to recertify your income before the end of the COVID-19 emergency relief period, regardless of whether your recertification date would have happened prior to the end of the relief period. As part of the payment suspension, your recertification date has been pushed out from your original recertification date. You will be notified of your new recertification date before it is time to recertify.

Wrong contact info means you’ll be missing important updates about your federal student loans. Log in now to confirm your info is correct. Be on the lookout for this email or letter to ensure you don’t miss your IDR recertification deadline.

Consider what your financial circumstances will be when repayment resumes. You might want to recertify early. If you recertify, your new payment amount will begin after the payment suspension ends. If you would like to recertify during the payment suspension, contact your loan servicer to request to do so. 

Woman changes her address and phone number via her student loan servicer website using her mobile phone. The text next to the woman says, “If your address or personal information has changed, remember to inform your loan servicer of these updates.” Below the text is an example of  entry fields labeled “Address” and “Telephone Number” and a button that says, “Update.”
Be sure to receive important updates by keeping your contact information accurate with your servicer.


Remember to Avoid PSLF Scams!

There is no fee for the suspension of payments and other federal student loan benefits—not from the federal government and not from your loan servicer. If someone asks for money to suspend payments on your loans or help you apply for PSLF (for example), it’s a scam. Learn more about avoiding student aid scams.

If you’re looking for more general tips on how to apply for PSLF successfully, check out Applying for Public Service Loan Forgiveness: 5 Tips for Success.

This article was written by Miranda H., a Digital Engagement Strategist at the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid. As a public servant with federal student loans, she is passionate about increasing awareness around the PSLF program to improve the overall experience for people like her.