Senate Inches Toward Completing COVID-19 Relief Bill
December 07, 2020

​​ACE, associations outline the needs of college students and institutions during the pandemic in letter to Congress

A bipartisan group of Senate lawmakers is finalizing work on a $908 billion COVID-19 relief bill with a goal of releasing the final text of the measure later today or tomorrow, although differences remain over aid to state and local governments and business liability protections, according to Reuters.

The full details of what’s in the bill to support college students and higher education institutions are unknown at this point. ACE and over 100 other higher education associations sent a letter Dec. 2 to House and Senate leaders documenting the extreme financial stress that colleges and universities have been under during the pandemic.

The groups are requesting at least $120 billion to help alleviate this stress, recognizing that the situation continues to worsen and will persist throughout the spring.

“Federal support to students and institutions from the CARES Act was vital to keeping students enrolled and colleges running in the spring, but the scope of the financial duress of students and institutions has only grown,” they wrote. “Our associations have previously shared detailed estimates identifying at least $120 billion in new expenses and lost revenue that are the direct result of the pandemic. While it is too soon to have a detailed summary of all the losses and new expenses institutions are facing on a national level, we have been able to survey institutions and provide a clearer picture of the pandemic’s impact on students and colleges. In almost all areas, the impact is worse than anticipated.”

Both Republican and Democratic leaders want to attach the relief bill to an omnibus government-funding bill that covers appropriations for FY 2021. A stopgap measure that prevents a government shutdown runs out on Dec. 11, and lawmakers are considering another one that would last a week, giving Congress until Dec. 18 to complete both appropriations and the coronavirus aid package.

Top Democratic leaders in the Senate and House said last week that they were open to using the bipartisan Senate bill as a starting point for negotiations, but what that really means and how much Democrats are willing to concede before the beginning of the Biden administration remains to be seen. Any Senate bill that is eventually hammered out would need to be acceptable to House Democrats, who have previously sought more than $2 trillion in relief.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said on Sunday that the compromise measure was a stopgap to buoy the country until next year, and that he hopes Congress can pass a “much bigger bill” after President-elect Joe Biden takes office Jan. 20.

​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.

Read more