ED Announces Plans for Distributing Emergency Relief; Biden COVID-19 Relief Plan Would Give $35 Billion to Higher Education
January 19, 2021

​The Department of Education (ED) last week announced its plan for distributing the largest pool of funding for students and higher education institutions in the COVID-19 relief bill passed in December.

The law—known as the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA)— provides $20.5 billion total to nonprofit colleges and universities, and bases the funding formula on institutional enrollment with an emphasis on Pell Grant recipients.

The department also announced an expedited process for disbursing the funds to schools that participated in both the student and institutional portions of the relief funds in last year’s CARES Act. In effect, ED is handling the new funding as supplemental to the earlier relief funding. Other institutions, including those that didn’t participate in earlier rounds (or are subject to the endowment tax) will have different processes for applying for the money.

ED officials have emphasized that colleges and universities that have not yet filed their quarterly or annual reports as required by the CARES Act may see delays or limitations on the funds they can receive in this round. They encouraged institutions to file these reports quickly and in advance of drawing down the new tranche of funding.

Biden COVID Relief Plan: On a related note, President-elect Joe Biden outlined his plans for economic relief from the coronavirus crisis on Thursday, citing the country’s need for a national COVID-19 vaccine strategy as well as a wide-ranging set of policies aimed at helping the economy recover. His $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan” would allocate $35 billion to institutions and students, as well as $5 billion to a governor’s fund that could be used for either higher ed or PreK-12.

The plan remains fairly high-level, but it appears that nearly all of the $35 billion is ”directed to” public institutions, aside from private minority serving institutions. Of course, this doesn’t address the needs of hundreds of private nonprofit colleges and universities and the millions of students they serve and the communities that depend on them for so much of their economy.

As the plan moves forward, ACE and the higher education association community will continue to stress to the new administration and Congress that colleges and universities need significantly greater resources to deal with the past and future impact of COVID-19, and also that institutions play a vital role in economic conditions in their surrounding communities and overall employment in the country. ​

​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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