U.S. Department of Education Stops Collection Actions, Wage Garnishments, and Treasury Offsets for Federal Student Loans

Debt collectors must discontinue collection calls and stop sending collection notices to defaulted student-loan borrowers, as well as end wage garnishments and other monetary intercepts.

By , Attorney

Update: On his first day in office, President Joe Biden issued 17 executive orders, presidential memoranda, and agency directives. One of those directives instructed the U.S. Department of Education to extend the existing payment suspension and interest waiver for most federal student loans through at least September 30, 2021. (The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act initially set up this student loan payment suspension.) In response, the Education Department announced that it would continue the pause on federal student loan payments and collection actions at President Biden's request and keep borrowers' interest rate at 0%.

On March 25, 2020, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced that, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Department will stop collection actions and wage garnishments related to federal student loans for at least 60 days starting (retroactively) on March 13, 2020. Under the Education Department's directive, private collection agencies must cease all proactive collection activities, including making phone calls to borrowers, and issuing collection letters and billing statements.

The Department has also stopped all requests to the U.S. Treasury to withhold money from defaulted borrowers' federal income tax refunds, Social Security payments, and other federal payments (known as "Treasury offsets"). Be aware that to stop the wage garnishments, employers have to adjust borrowers' paychecks. So, if your employer continues to garnish your wages after March 13, you should contact the human resources department where you work.

In addition, DeVos directed the Department to refund approximately $1.8 billion in offsets to more than 830,000 borrowers, which were in the process of being withheld as of March 13, 2020.

Effective Date: March 13, 2020