The Department of Education approved forgiveness for a total of 157 loans under Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) plans as of June 1, 2021, but has not taken the steps necessary to ensure that all eligible loans receive IDR forgiveness. IDR plans generally lower monthly payment amounts and extend repayment to 20 or 25 years of qualifying payments, after which borrowers become eligible for forgiveness of their remaining loan balances without needing to apply. However, GAO found that about 7,700 loans in repayment (about 11 percent of loans analyzed) could be potentially eligible for IDR forgiveness. Education’s repayment data do not provide enough information to definitively determine why these loans—totaling about $49 million in outstanding debt—had not been forgiven as of September 1, 2020 (see figure). Education officials said data limitations make it difficult to track some qualifying payments and older loans are at higher risk for payment tracking errors. Until Education takes steps to address such errors, some borrowers may not receive the IDR forgiveness they are entitled. This risk will increase as Education data show loans potentially eligible for IDR forgiveness will climb to about 1.5 million loans by 2030.
Selected Outcomes for Loans in Repayment Long Enough to be Potentially Eligible for Income-Driven Repayment Forgiveness
GAO identified gaps in the information Education and its loan servicers provide to borrowers about IDR forgiveness.
Education does not provide information about the requirements for receiving IDR forgiveness, including what counts as a qualifying payment toward forgiveness, in key communications to IDR borrowers. Borrowers who do not receive this information may be unaware that months in forbearance and most types of deferment generally do not count. Additional information would help borrowers understand requirements for forgiveness.
Education and its servicers told GAO they do not provide regular updates to borrowers in IDR plans on the counts of qualifying payments made toward forgiveness unless borrowers request them. They also do not notify all borrowers about options to request and verify these counts. Providing this information is especially important given the risk of payment tracking errors.
Unless Education ensures borrowers are better informed about forgiveness requirements and qualifying payment counts, IDR borrowers may make uninformed decisions and be unable to correct inaccurate counts, potentially delaying forgiveness.
Why GAO Did This Study
About half of the more than $1 trillion in outstanding federal student Direct Loans are being repaid by borrowers using IDR plans. Some borrowers in IDR plans are now potentially eligible for forgiveness of their remaining loan balances after 20 or 25 years of payments. GAO was asked to review IDR forgiveness.
This report examines (1) how many loans have received IDR forgiveness and the extent to which Education ensures eligible loans receive forgiveness, and (2) the extent to which Education provides key information about IDR forgiveness to borrowers in IDR plans.
GAO analyzed Education data on IDR loans that had been in repayment long enough to be potentially eligible for IDR forgiveness as of September 1, 2020, and data on loans forgiven as of June 1, 2021, the most recent data available. In addition, GAO interviewed Education and loan servicer officials, and reviewed documents from all nine servicers operating in 2020, Education requirements, and relevant federal laws and regulations.
- Arleigh Burke Class Destroyers: Observations on the Navy’s Hybrid Electric Drive Program
November 5, 2020In 2009, the Secretary of the Navy set goals to reduce fuel consumption and, 2 years later, initiated a program to install Hybrid Electric Drive (HED) systems on its fleet of Arleigh Burke class (DDG 51 Flight IIA) destroyers. The HED system draws surplus power from the ship’s electric system and uses it to propel the ship. This allows the crew to turn off the propulsion engines and save fuel. Since 2011, Navy officials told us that they have spent over $100 million on the development, purchase, and upgrade of six HED systems. In October 2018, the Navy completed installation of one of the systems on the USS Truxtun (DDG 103). However, the Navy has yet to install the remaining five HED systems and now plans to use them to support another research effort. The Navy issued a January 2020 report to Congress on the HED system installed on the USS Truxtun, but did not include some requested information. For example, while the report included performance information from operations on board the USS Truxtun, it did not include sufficient information to determine the overall performance of the HED system. A comprehensive test and evaluation could have assessed the system’s performance, reliability, and cyber survivability to inform program decision-making. Further, the report did not include a summary of planned investment that includes: an assessment of the costs and benefits of the HED system, or a projection of the funding needed to execute the program. The Navy stated that it did not include a summary of the planned investments in the report because the HED program was not included in the President’s fiscal year 2020 budget and also due to the need for additional HED data. However, Congress appropriated $35 million in funding for the HED program in 2020, which was available to support ship installation of the five previously purchased HEDs. The Navy stated that it can only use a small portion of this funding before it expires in September 2022 since the systems cannot be upgraded and incorporated into a ship’s maintenance schedule in the next 3 years. In summer 2020, Navy requirements officials informed GAO and Congress that they plan to suspend the HED program and send the five surplus HED systems to support research into a new electric motor, known as Propulsion Derived Ship Service (PDSS). Navy requirements officials identified several reasons for suspending the HED program, but these reasons differ from information GAO obtained during the course of this review. For example: Navy officials stated that it is expensive to maintain the HED system. However, the commanding officer and crew of the USS Truxtun and senior Navy engineers stated that the system requires little maintenance. Navy officials also stated that the HED is not used very often in operations. According to the Navy’s January 2020 report, the system was designed for low-speed operations (speed up to 11 knots), which comprise more than one-third of a typical DDGs operating profile. GAO did not assess the Navy’s decision to use the HED systems for PDSS research because the Navy did not have documentation regarding the requirements, testing, schedule, or costs of the PDSS effort. GAO could not determine the merits of suspending the HED program and using the other five HED systems for the PDSS effort because the Navy has yet to complete analysis that determines the costs, benefits, and performance necessary to support such a decision. If the Navy completes a further assessment—which has been requested by Congress—it could provide the information necessary to inform future decisions about the HED program. This report assesses the Navy’s HED program. Senate Report 115-262 accompanying the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 asked the Navy to submit a report on the HED system installed on the USS Truxtun. GAO was asked to review the Navy’s report and the Navy’s recent decision to suspend the HED program to pursue the PDSS research project. This report (1) examines the extent to which the Navy’s report on the USS Truxtun included information regarding the assessment areas as requested by Congress; and (2) describes the Navy’s decision to suspend the HED program and use the HED systems for the PDSS research effort. To conduct this work, GAO reviewed the Navy’s 2020 report on the HED system, analyzed data and documentation the Navy used to guide investments, and assessed HED performance information. GAO also interviewed relevant Navy officials, such as the commanding officer and other senior crew of the USS Truxtun, and Navy engineers. GAO is not making any recommendations. For more information, contact Shelby S. Oakley at (202) 512-4841 or email@example.com.
- COVID-19: Federal Telework Increased During the Pandemic, but More Reliable Data Are Needed to Support Oversight
February 8, 2022What GAO Found The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) collects data on federal telework to report annually to Congress, but has made limited progress addressing long-standing data issues. In 2016, GAO made four recommendations to OPM related to improving the reliability of its federal payroll data system, including telework information. OPM agreed with the recommendations and has implemented one related to data standards. However, OPM has not developed a plan to address the remaining three recommendations—consistently monitor error reports, integrate payroll data into a larger suite of databases, and strengthen internal control activities. Developing a plan to address these recommendations would better position OPM to improve its reporting of telework and provide more accurate and useful information to Congress. Given the issues with OPM’s data, GAO collected telework information directly from 24 agencies. These data initially had limitations so GAO followed up with each agency to clarify outliers and collect missing data. The data showed that all 24 agencies increased their use of telework in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Pre-pandemic, in January 2020, 13 agencies reported at least a quarter of their employees teleworked to some degree. By April 2020, all 24 agencies reported at least a quarter of employees teleworked, with nine agencies reporting at least 90 percent of their employees teleworked. Similarly, by April through June 2020, more agencies had employees teleworking full-time. Pre-pandemic, at nearly all 24 agencies, less than a quarter of teleworking employees did so full time. During the pandemic, 14 agencies had at least a quarter of teleworking employees doing so full time. Agencies described a range of telework-related challenges during the pandemic and tried to address them (see figure). Agencies are considering future workplace changes that include modifications to requirements to report regularly to an agency worksite. Additionally, agencies are considering reducing facilities and infrastructure. As agencies contemplate the future of work for millions of federal employees, it is important for OPM to have accurate data on federal telework to support oversight. GAO reiterates the importance of having its recommendations implemented promptly. Why GAO Did This Study Federal agencies use telework to help accomplish their missions and maintain operations, especially during emergencies, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. In March 2020, the Office of Management and Budget instructed agencies to maximize the use of telework to allow federal employees to remain safe while working from alternative locations and maintaining mission critical workforce needs. The CARES Act includes a provision for GAO to report on ongoing COVID-19 monitoring and oversight efforts. In this report, GAO (1) assesses OPM’s progress in addressing telework data limitations and describes federal agencies’ use of telework during the COVID-19 pandemic, and (2) describes actions agencies have taken to address telework-related challenges identified during the COVID-19 pandemic and considerations for future operating postures. For this report, GAO collected and analyzed telework data and related documents from 24 major federal agencies from selected time periods before and during the pandemic. GAO also interviewed OPM and selected agencies’ officials.
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November 2, 2021What GAO Found The Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Health and Human Services (HHS) have taken steps to coordinate their programs that serve youth experiencing homelessness. These programs include HUD’s Continuum of Care program, which funds housing and homelessness services for people of all ages in nearly all communities across the country, and HHS’s Runaway and Homeless Youth program, which funds emergency shelters, transitional housing, and supportive services for youth in a few hundred communities. For example, HHS was involved in the development of HUD’s Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program, which provides grants to several dozen communities to address youth homelessness. In addition, the agencies integrated data collection for the Runaway and Homeless Youth program into local data systems operated under the Continuum of Care program to help program providers better coordinate client services at the local level. GAO’s review of documents and interviews with local program providers, agency officials, researchers, and advocates identified several challenges in serving youth experiencing homelessness, including both young adults and minors (those under 18). For example: Under the Continuum of Care program, communities must establish a process, known as coordinated entry, for prioritizing who receives limited housing resources. Many providers of homelessness services reported that their community’s process tends to prioritize young adults lower than older adults. This is partly because these processes, following HUD guidance, give higher priority to those who have been homeless longer and who have documented disabilities. HUD has provided some information to communities on serving youth through coordinated entry, but this information largely has not addressed how to ensure that young adults are not consistently prioritized below other groups for housing. Most providers GAO interviewed reported that minors experiencing homelessness unaccompanied (without a parent or caregiver) do not participate in the coordinated entry process, with several noting there are limited housing options that can serve minors. Some providers and other stakeholders discussed challenges coordinating between the homelessness and child welfare systems to serve this group. However, HUD and HHS have provided limited information about or examples of how providers could coordinate to better serve unaccompanied minors. Although HUD and HHS have taken some steps to coordinate the Continuum of Care and Runaway and Homeless Youth programs, providers of these programs reported challenges in coordination and communication, including a lack of understanding of one another’s programs and a need for more strategic planning on services for youth. HUD and HHS have acknowledged a need for additional information related to serving youth. Additional support from HUD and HHS in the areas identified above could help to improve coordination and the delivery of services to both young adults and minors at the local level. Why GAO Did This Study Youth homelessness is a widespread problem, with one recent study estimating that one in 10 young adults experience some form of homelessness over the course of a year—such as living on the streets or in a shelter or temporarily staying with others. GAO was asked to study youth homelessness. This report examines, among other things, HUD’s and HHS’s coordination to address youth homelessness and challenges communities face in serving youth through HUD and HHS programs. GAO analyzed federal agency documents related to homelessness efforts; conducted structured interviews with a nongeneralizable sample of 24 local homelessness providers, selected to reflect communities of different sizes and with different types of programs for youth; and interviewed other local program staff, youth homelessness researchers and advocates, and federal officials.
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