(NEW YORK) — Just before Thanksgiving, about 9 million people who applied for student debt relief from the federal government got an email from the Department of Education with a subject line indicating their application had been “approved,” according to a copy of the email obtained by ABC News.
But that was misleading as the Biden administration’s student loan program was halted in mid-November by Republican-led lawsuits — weeks before the email was sent informing borrowers of their “approved” status.
The email explained as much in the email body, informing borrowers that “lawsuits are preventing the Department of Education from implementing its one-time student loan debt relief program.”
The program will remain in limbo until the Supreme Court makes the final call on the program sometime before late June. But the subject line left many borrowers confused.
Acknowledging the misfire this week — about two weeks later — the Department of Education told ABC News that borrowers will get an updated email soon that corrects the subject line and clarifies the state of the program. (The Department of Education said that some people did get emails with the correct subject line.)
A spokesperson said Accenture Federal Services, a contractor that does digital work for the federal government, is primarily responsible.
“Communicating clearly and accurately with borrowers is a top priority of the Department. We are in close touch with Accenture Federal Services as they take corrective action to ensure all borrowers and those affected have accurate information about debt relief,” a spokesperson for the Education Department said.
Accenture Federal Services has not returned a request for comment from ABC News, but the Education Department said the company is expected to review quality control measures for future email messages having to do with the program.
On the whole, the erroneous email is just one of multiple twists and turns for the debt relief proposal, which the White House announced in late August.
Around 26 million Americans applied for forgiveness by early November — nearly half of the people who were eligible. About 43 million Americans qualify in total, according to the Biden administration.
President Joe Biden and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona have said they remain confident the program will prevail through the legal challenges, though its challengers maintain the president has overreached his authority.
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