The CARES Act and Your Student Loans
If you have a student loan, be aware of how the U.S. Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) affects that loan.
1. Employer Educational Assistance Extended to Student Loans
If your local church, as your employer, has an IRS-qualified education assistance program and gives you financial assistance to pay your student loans, up to $5,250 of that educational assistance may qualify to be excluded from your wages. Normally an exclusion for educational assistance does not apply to existing student loans, however, the CARES Act has expanded educational assistance to include the payment of student loans paid after March 27, 2020, and before January 1, 2021.
This is significant for U.S. pastors who are participating in either of the COMPASS Initiative’s programs: the COMPASS Journey or the COMPASS Quest. The grant associated with your program is usually considered taxable income for you, if you use it for debt reduction. However, under the expanded educational assistance of the CARES Act up to $5,250 will be exempt, if used for student loan payments paid after March 27, 2020 and before January 1, 2021.
See the official IRS publications for detailed information:
- https://www.irs.gov/publications/p15b (See the section on “Educational Assistance.”)
2. Federal Student Loans Set at 0% Interest and Payments Suspended
All student loans owned by the U.S. Department of Education have had their interest rates set to 0% from March 13, 2020 to December 31, 2020. These include Federal Direct Loans (Direct Subsidized, Direct Unsubsidized, Direct PLUS for graduate students and for parents, and Direct Consolidation), Federal Family Education Loans, and Federal Perkins Loans.
All payments on these loans have been suspended until December 31, 2020, with no capitalization or accrual of interest. This may be a good time for you to make additional payments if you are able, to reduce the overall amount of your loan while not accruing additional interest.
For more information and for answers to frequently asked questions about Income-Driven Repayment, IDR Forgiveness, and Loans in Default, see the following U.S. Department of Education publications:
- https://studentaid.gov/manage-loans/repayment/servicers (contact information for federal loan servicers)
Disclaimer: The material contained herein is of a general nature to inform. It is not offered as specific legal or tax advice. Each person, local church board, and district should evaluate their own unique situation in consultation with their local legal and tax advisors.