Student loans of at least 40,000 borrowers will be canceled immediately under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, the Department of Education said on Tuesday.

Several thousand borrowers with older loans will also receive forgiveness through income-driven repayment and more than 3.6 million borrowers will receive at least three years of additional credit toward income-driven forgiveness, according to Federal Student Aid, the largest provider of financial aid for college and university students in the United States.

“Student loans were never meant to be a life sentence, but it’s certainly felt that way for borrowers locked out of debt relief they’re eligible for,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.

“Today, the Department of Education will begin to remedy years of administrative failures that effectively denied the promise of loan forgiveness to certain borrowers enrolled in IDR plans. These actions once again demonstrate the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to delivering meaningful debt relief and ensuring federal student loan programs are administered fairly and effectively.”

The department says the move will help address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on borrowers with lower incomes and high debt loads, giving borrowers an affordable and effective path out of debt.

“First Student Aid will conduct a one-time account adjustment that will count forbearances of more than 12 months consecutive and more than 36 months cumulative toward forgiveness under IDR and Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program,” the department said in a statement.

Earlier in April, the Education Department announced an extension of the student loan repayment pause through Aug. 31, delaying any interest and collections as well through the summer.

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