Washington, D.C. – Student Defense and Democracy Forward responded today to the Education Department’s admission that it had initially seized more than $2.2 billion in tax refunds despite the CARES Act specifically prohibiting the practice. On Friday, May 29, 2020, after the filing of a class-action lawsuit by both organizations, an Education Department spokeswoman said that “more than $2.2 billion in Treasury offsets have been refunded to more than one million borrowers.”

Statement from Student Defense President Aaron Ament:
“The Department of Education has now admitted to offsetting more than a million student borrowers’ tax refunds in the middle of the pandemic—a practice now prohibited under the CARES Act. We need answers right now, to establish how this was allowed to happen, how many borrowers have been wronged, and how many are still waiting for their money to be refunded.”

Statement from Democracy Forward Senior Counsel Jeffrey Dubner:
“In response to our class action lawsuit, Trump’s Department of Education admits that it seized billions of dollars in tax refunds from millions of student borrowers, continuing well into the expanding pandemic. It’s stunning that the Trump administration insisted on snatching refunds from families who rely on this money to keep their heads above water. Our lawsuit will continue moving forward to hold the Trump administration accountable for this egregious and continuing mismanagement.”

More information about the lawsuit, Cole v. Mnuchin, is available here.


Democracy Forward is a nonprofit legal organization that scrutinizes Executive Branch activity across policy areas, represents clients in litigation to challenge unlawful actions, and educates the public when the White House or federal agencies break the law.

Student Defense is a non-partisan, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that works, through litigation and advocacy, to advance students’ rights to educational opportunity and to ensure that higher education provides a launching point for economic mobility.

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