If you live in a federally declared disaster area, the last thing on your mind is probably your student loans. However, instead of just skipping your payments, look into whether you're eligible for relief that would temporarily suspend your federal student loan payments.
To be eligible for this option, you need to live in a county designated a federal disaster area for individual assistance. To see if your county qualifies, check the Federal Emergency Management Agency's website.
How Do I Apply?
If a disaster has hit your home, it may be difficult for you to reach out immediately to request a postponement. If you are in default, you don't need to notify your loan holder that you want a postponement; they'll apply a 3-month forbearance automatically (unless they don't have your current address). Collection activities will stop for 3 months. For borrowers affected by the hurricanes in fall 2017, the Department of Education has extended this forbearance to last 6 months.
If the disaster did not affect you, be on the lookout for a notice from your loan holder to decline this postponement. While that break may sound nice, especially if your loans are in default, remember that forbearance always increases the amount you owe because interest continues to accrue.
If your federal student loans are in good standing, you, a member of your family, or another reliable source must contact your loan holder to let them know that you live in a designated disaster area and were affected by the disaster. This forbearance can be applied retroactively in the event you are unable to contact your loan holder immediately.
Contact your loan holder directly to request disaster relief. You can also call 800.4FEDAID (800.433.3243) or the Federal Student Aid Ombudsman at 877.557.2575 by phone or via fax at 606.396.4821 for assistance.
Details About The Postponement
Receiving disaster relief will postpone your payments—but the type of postponement depends on whether you're in school or in repayment.
If you are attending school and postponing your payments with an in-school deferment:
- You can continue using this deferment—regardless of your actual enrollment status—during your period of disaster-related nonattendance.
- You will keep an in-school enrollment status until you withdraw or re-enroll during the next regular enrollment period.
- If you do not enroll at the next enrollment period's start date, your loans will be put into repayment as of that date.
- Upon entering repayment, you will receive a grace period, provided you haven't previously used this time up.
If you are currently repaying your non-defaulted loans:
- Your loan holder can grant you forbearance for up to 3 months.
- During this time, your payments will not be due-but interest will continue to build up on your loans.
- Your loan holder does not need to obtain supporting documentation or a signed written agreement from you to grant you forbearance.
If your loans are currently in default:
- You, a family member, or another reliable source can request forbearance over the phone or in writing for up to 3 months.
- During this time, your payments will not be due—but interest will continue to build up on your loans.