President Trump announced all interest on federal student loans will be waived until further notice due to the coronavirus pandemic during a press conference Friday.
The White House has yet to issue an executive order mandating the change as of 5 p.m. Friday, and Trump did not detail specific legislation or plans to cancel federal loan interest. Students still have to pay monthly payments even if interest fees are waived.
At the University of Georgia, 23,128 undergraduate and graduate students received federal loans during the 2018-19 fiscal year, according to the UGA Fact Book. The total amount of federal loans UGA students received was nearly $180 million.
Schools across the country, including UGA, are suspending classes due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. While UGA is currently under a two-week suspension of instruction, some colleges such as Harvard University have moved classes online for the remainder of the spring semester.
The loan interest announcement came after Trump declared a national emergency “to unleash the full power of the federal government” in efforts to contain the spread of the virus. The declaration will open access to $50 billion of federal funds for U.S. states, territories and localities. In Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp declared a public health state of emergency based on Trump’s declaration, according to a Saturday press release.
During the address, Trump also discussed a temporary travel ban with Europe and the availability of COVID-19 tests.
On Wednesday, Trump announced the U.S. would begin suspending entry of foreign nationals who traveled to Europe within the last 14 days. The temporary ban went into effect Friday at midnight and is supposed to last 30 days. In the Friday address, Trump said U.S. citizens, permanent residents and their families returning from Europe will be subject to additional screening and a 14-day self-quarantine.
Italy has the most COVID-19 cases outside of China, according to the World Health Organization, and is under a country-wide quarantine. The virus is spreading to other countries in Europe — Spain, France and Germany all have over 3,000 cases of the disease as of Friday.
Trump said the government is working with the private sector to increase availability of COVID-19 tests in the U.S. but noted those with mild symptoms should not take the test.