ADEA Washington Update

After Hurricanes, Education Department and HHS Offer Aid

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The Department of Education (ED) has responded to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria with a resource guide on federal student aid intended to answer questions from postsecondary students affected by any of the three storms.

The resource guide offers a few pointers that could alleviate some students’ anxiety. For example, students receiving federal aid will be pleased to learn that disaster-related support from the state or federal government will not be counted as income when determining federal student aid eligibility.

Borrowers affected by a natural disaster are also entitled to a so-called “administrative forbearance” of up to 90 days—essentially a three-month pause in loan payments. ED notes that interest will continue to accrue, although it will not be added to the principal. Affected borrowers will also receive a 15-day extension to file any documentation required by loan servicers.

Since all three hurricanes were federally declared as Major Disasters, ED is entitled under law to take additional steps to help affected students, educational institutions, lenders and loan servicers.

Citing the large numbers of Americans struggling to recover from a series of destructive hurricanes, Representatives Richard Neal (D-MA) and Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) have asked the administration to extend the enrollment periods for both the Affordable Care Act Marketplace and Medicare insurance through January 2018. 

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) responded to calls for hurricane assistance by sending hundreds of medical personnel and public health officials to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Personnel from the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) set up a base of operations with medical equipment and supplies adjacent to Centro Medico, an emergency and trauma center in San Juan. Medical professionals from NDMS and U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) Commissioned Corps are staffing the location to assist the center and local hospitals that are seeing an overwhelming number of patients or are short-staffed as the territory works to respond and recover from the hurricanes.

A team of public health and environmental health experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have deployed to assist Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands with assessments of shelters, water systems and other environmental health needs. They will assess public health requirements so that HHS can respond to those needs.

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