Betsy DeVos taking wages from people with student loans after saying she wouldn't

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A lawsuit alleges that DeVos is still garnishing wages from workers who defaulted on their loans in the middle of a pandemic.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is garnishing wages of Americans who defaulted on their federal student loans, a lawsuit filed on Thursday alleges — a move that, if true, is a violation of federal law.

Elizabeth Barber, a home health aide from upstate New York, claimed in the lawsuit that the federal government seized $70.20 from her April 24 paycheck to go toward the more than $900 in student loan debt she defaulted on in 2019.

She pointed to DeVos' announcement back on March 24 that the Department of Education would stop seizing wages from borrowers who defaulted on federal student loans amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused at least 30 million Americans to lose their jobs so far.

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According to an FAQ on studentaid.gov, borrowers whose wages are seized between March 13 and Sept. 30 will supposedly be refunded.

The CARES Act — the $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill Congress passed in March — also paused the practice of garnishing wages on those loans until Sept. 30, 2020.

Barber, for her part, earns just $12.89 an hour.

"As Ms. Barber continues to assist clients in need, the Department — in violation of the CARES Act — continues to garnish approximately 12% of her paychecks," the lawsuit stated.

Barber brought the lawsuit on behalf of 285,000 other borrowers who she alleged similarly "had their wages garnished between March 13 and March 26, 2020."

"On information and belief, many of these borrowers continue to have their wages garnished in violation of the CARES Act," the suit claimed.

The lawsuit seeks refunds for amounts that have allegedly been garnished from hundreds of thousands of borrowers, as well as an order prohibiting the federal government from continuing to seize wages.

This is not the first time DeVos has been sued for violating laws meant to protect student borrowers.

In October, a federal judge held DeVos in contempt of court and fined the department $100,000, after she continued to collect loans from students who were defrauded by a for-profit college chain, despite a court ordering her to stop.

Mark Brown, head of the department's Federal Student Aid office, claimed at the time that the collections "were not done with ill intent," but acknowledged that "students and parents were affected and we take full responsibility for that."