Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has continued the practice of garnishing the wages of student loan borrowers who are in default, according to a lawsuit filed on Thursday.
The suit, brought by a New York woman on behalf of about 285,000 borrowers, claims that DeVos and her department have not halted collection practices even though the secretary made an official announcement, on March 25, stating that the seizure of wages and tax refunds will automatically stop. Devos also promised a refund of approximately $1.8 billion of all wages seized since March 13.
In the late March announcement the secretary wrote, “These are difficult times for many Americans, and we don’t want to do anything that will make it harder for them to make ends meet or create additional stress.”
A Department of Education spokeswoman, Angela Morabito, told CNN that “the department has taken immediate action to notify employers to stop garnishing wage.” But according to an April 21 Washington Post article, which the suit cites, DeVos’ department still hadn’t notified employers to stop garnishing wages of student loan borrowers in default — almost a month after the initial announcement.
By continuing the heartless practice during a pandemic that has hit countless American’s economically, the Department of Education is also violating stop-collection protections that were passed in the CARES Act on March 27.
Additionally, DeVos’ department still hasn’t announced a timeline for the refunds her department promised for wages seized starting in mid-March.
Persis Yu, the Director of the National Consumer Law Center’s Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project told Politico, “Returning the money several months from now is not acceptable.” Yu continued, “We’re in a national crisis right now, and borrowers need that money right now, and Congress passed a law that said borrowers should keep that money right now.”
DeVos has stood against students looking for debt relief before. Even when it’s obvious that they have been scammed by for-profit institutions. Last year, Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) told DeVos, “You are the most unpopular person in our government” while the secretary defended the weakening of the Obama administration’s students’ fraud protection policy, called “borrower’s defense,” during an appearance before the House Education and Labor Committee.
“I’ve had some honest disagreements with my friends in the Republican Party on how to move education forward, but I have never, not one time, believed they were out to destroy public education until I met you,” Wilson said.
So, despite DeVos’ March promise to alleviate “additional stress” and not “make it harder for [Americans] to make ends meet,” DeVos instead shows the brutal resolve of a gangster mentality that was infamously portrayed in a scene from the movie Goodfellas, where the narrator repeats over and over “fuck you pay, me” — no matter the circumstances of those who owe.
Faced with a pandemic? Fuck you, pay me.