COVID-19: Impact on Students, Borrowers, and More

As we continue to navigate the ever-changing COVID-19 pandemic, the well-being of students, families, and our partners is our priority at FAME. The impacts of COVID-19 on students and borrowers continue to change. We will monitor for new developments and make updates to this page when needed.

Please note: Your safety and that of our employees is of utmost importance to us. Please call or email FAME for service as our office is closed to visitors due to COVID-19.

UPDATED: What do I need to know about my student loans?

What is the current status of Federal Student Loans?

Updated January 21, 2021: The below reflects the executive action signed by President Biden on 1/20/21. The flexibility was scheduled to expire on January 31, 2021, but President Biden has directed the Department of Education to extend the federal student loan administrative forbearance period, the pause in interest accrual, and the suspension of collections activity through September 30, 2021.

Student loan interest is frozen on all federally held student loans through September 30, 2021 (for both currently enrolled students and borrowers in repayment).

Payments are suspended on all federally held loans through September 30, 2021. Borrowers in income-based repayment plans or Public Service Loan Forgiveness will still have these months count toward their total qualifying payments even if they are not making payments. Please keep in mind this suspension is not payment cancellation or forgiveness but is a forbearance.

What is a federally held student loan? All Direct Loans are federally held, as are some Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL) and some Federal Perkins Loans. However, some older FFEL are privately held and some Federal Perkins Loans are held by individual schools, not the federal government. To determine if your FFEL and Perkins Loans are federally held, log in to StudentAid.gov with your FSA ID and check who is listed as the lender on the loan. If you have never created your FSA ID username and password, start by clicking on “Create Account.” Borrowers with non-federally held loans who are having trouble making payments should contact their loan servicer.

What if I have defaulted on my student loans?  If you have federally held defaulted student loans, effective March 13, 2020 through September 30, 2021 your interest rate is reduced to 0% and your loan payments are suspended. Additionally, involuntary collections such as wage garnishment, tax refund reductions, and reductions of federal benefits like Social Security benefits are also suspended until September 30, 2021.

On March 30, 2021 the COVID-19 emergency relief measures were expanded to include defaulted student loans made through the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFEL). If you are a FFEL borrower in default, you may be able to receive a refund for any wages garnished or tax refunds seized since March 13, 2020. Additionally, if you made voluntary payments on your defaulted FFEL Program loans since March 13, 2020 you may be able to request a refund for those payments. If you defaulted on your FFEL Program loan after March 13, 2020 your payments made since that time will be refunded and your interest rate will be set to 0%, your loan will be held by the Department of Education, the loan status will be returned to “good standing,” and the guaranty agency for your loan will request that the record of your default be removed from your credit report.

For more information visit Coronavirus and Forbearance Info for Students, Borrowers, and Parents at StudentAid.gov.

What can I do if I’m having trouble making payments on my private student loans?

Borrowers who are having trouble making payments as a result of COVID-19 should contact their private loan servicer. Maine Loan borrowers having difficulty making payments should contact FirstMark Services or FAME’s Education Team to discuss payment options. Borrowers through other lenders listed on theloanforme.com should contact American Education Services at 1-800-233-0557 to discuss payment options.

Who do I call about payments on my FAME-administered loans? If borrowers who have loans through any of the following programs are having difficulty making payments as a result of COVID-19, they should contact FAME’s Education Team at 1-800-228-3734, Option 1: Maine Medical Association Loan, Educators for Maine, Maine Dental Education Loan, Maine Veterinary Medicine Loan, or the Health Professions Loan Program. We are able to offer COVID-19 related accommodations on these programs through September 30, 2021.

Additional information:

What can you tell me about the third round of Economic Impact Payments (Stimulus Checks) from the Federal Government?

All U.S. residents with adjusted gross income up to $75,000 ($150,000 married), who have a work eligible social security number, may be eligible for the full $1,400 ($2,800 married) payment. In addition, they may be eligible for an additional $1,400 per dependent, including college students and seniors claimed as dependents. Payment amounts gradually phase out for those with higher incomes.

Payments may be available even for those who have no income, as well as those whose income comes entirely from non-taxable means-tested benefit programs, such as SSI benefits.

Visit IRS.gov for more information.

  • The total payment amount is based on the adjusted gross income from the most recent taxes on file, 2019 or 2020.
  • Taxpayers with direct deposit information on file with the IRS will receive a direct deposit. For those without direct deposit information on file with the IRS, the IRS will use federal records of recent payments to or from the government to make the payment as a direct deposit. Otherwise, taxpayers will receive their payment as a check or debit card in the mail.
  • In this third round of stimulus payments, college students and seniors claimed as dependents are eligible, assuming the individual(s) claiming the student meets the income criteria. The $1,400 payment will go to the individual(s) who claim the dependent.
  • Individuals must have a Social Security number to be eligible to receive a check.

Has eligibility for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) been expanded?

Yes! It’s now easier for college students to get food assistance during the pandemic. As part of the second coronavirus stimulus package passed in December, eligibility has been temporarily expanded to include college students enrolled at least half-time who:

  • have a zero Expected Family Contribution (EFC) from the FAFSA; or
  • who are eligible for work-study.

To receive SNAP benefits, students must apply and meet income and other eligibility criteria.

To apply for SNAP go to: https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/ofi/programs-services/food-supplement and apply online using My Maine Connection – click on Sign Up Now!

  • Applicants will need to provide documentation confirming they meet this expanded eligibility, which can be provided in the following ways:
  • A screenshot or documentation from your school indicating that you have a zero EFC or are eligible for work-study; or
  • A screenshot or copy of your financial aid offer showing a zero EFC, full Pell Grant eligibility (i.e. $6,345 if full-time), or work-study eligibility; or
  • A screenshot or copy of your Student Aid Report (just page 1) which can be found at FAFSA.gov. Log in with your FSA ID and then click on “View Student Aid Report.”

For more information, contact DHHS’s Office of Family Independence by email at Farmington.DHHS@Maine.gov or phone at 1-855-797-4357.

I’m a college student struggling with a financial emergency. Can my school help me?

Students experiencing a financial emergency should contact their higher education institution to see if help is available. Pending implementation, institutions will be able to use Supplementary Education Opportunity Grant (SEOG) funds as emergency aid. Institutions will also receive funding from the Federal Education Stabilization Fund and are required to use some of that funding toward emergency aid.

Are there new rules about the taxability of my federal student loans if they are forgiven/cancelled?

Federal student loans forgiven as part of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program are currently not considered income for federal income tax purposes. With the passage of the American Rescue Plan on March 11, 2021, federal student loan cancellations made under other qualifying income driven repayment plans are non-taxable at the federal level if the cancellation occurs after December 31, 2020 and on or before December 31, 2025. As always, you should check with your tax consultant regarding taxability of any student loan forgiveness or cancellation whether at the federal or state level where you file your state taxes.