Senators Seek Briefings From DeVos on IRS Tool

May 2, 2017

Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander and Washington Democrat Patty Murray, the chairman and ranking member of the Senate education committee, wrote to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Monday seeking additional updates on the reinstatement of the IRS data retrieval tool.

The tool, which was abruptly taken off-line in March, allows students submitting for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to automatically import family income data already filed with the government. The suspension of the tool after a cybersecurity breach has created concerns that more low-income students would be flagged for income verification checks, slowing the award process for financial aid and keeping some from finishing the process entirely. Reports from financial aid advocates indicate that, so far, those concerns about additional burdens have been correct.

Alexander and Murray said they were encouraged by the department's announcement last week that it would ease the verification process for colleges. But they said the continued suspension of the tool is burdensome for students and their families, as well as student loan borrowers applying for income-driven repayment certification. The senators requested a May 4 briefing for their staffs on the tool as well as subsequent biweekly briefings from the department about its plans to get the tool back online.

They also asked DeVos to revisit the request they made last month for specific actions to assist students affected by the tool's suspension.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will hold a hearing Wednesday reviewing the data breach of the IRS tool.

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