COVID Relief Negotiations Restart; Associations Ask for Additional Funds for Colleges and Universities
September 28, 2020

​Update: The text of the new HEROES Act was released late on Sept. 28. The funding level for higher education is $39 billion, only $2 billion above the original version of the bill. The additional funds are for Minority Serving Institutions.

​House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin indicated last week that they'll resume negotiations on a new COVID-19 economic relief package, which could come to the House floor for a vote as soon as this week. The stakes are high as the need around the country—from individuals to businesses to state and local governments to higher education—is overwhelming.

The reported $2.4 trillion bill is smaller than the $3.4 trillion provided in the Heroes Act which the House approved in May and included $37 billion for students and institutions. The proposed support for colleges and universities in the next relief bill has ranged from $29 billion in the HEALS Act (introduced by Senate Republicans) to as high as the $132 billion in the Coronavirus Childcare and Education Relief Act, legislation introduced in June by Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Patty Murray (D-WA). The White House and congressional Republicans had previously opposed spending more than $1 trillion on additional relief, so it is unclear if a bill passed by the House would pass in the Senate.

In a letter to Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), ACE and 45 other higher education associations are asking for at least $120 billion in the new measure, even though it has increasingly become apparent that more is needed.

“Previously, the associations calculated that the financial impact of the pandemic on students and institutions would total at least $120 billion,” the groups wrote. “Now, roughly one month into the fall semester, our members are reporting that their revenue losses and new costs have already greatly exceeded this amount, especially in areas such as testing, contact tracing, quarantine, treatment, and learning technology. For their part, many of our students and their families are struggling with reduced incomes and job losses, resulting in the need for billions of dollars in increased student aid.”

The stakes go beyond campuses and students, however. As the letter explains, support for colleges and universities addresses all of the core problems our country is facing, from employment and economic benefits to the larger communities, first-line responder training, and the scientific research needed to produce vaccines and treatments for COVID-19. ACE joined a coalition of three other higher education associations last week to send a separate letter to the Speaker, asking her to make emergency funding for the nation’s research agencies a priority in the next COVID relief bill.

The window for a new relief bill under this Congress is closing quickly. Lawmakers will be gone for most of October to campaign ahead of the November election, though senators are expected to return at some point to cast their votes to confirm President Trump's Supreme Court pick, Amy Coney Barrett.

COVID-19 Policy Developments

Learn more about the higher education association effort to urge Congress and the administration to craft a comprehensive response that addresses the challenges students and campuses are facing.

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