Senate Likely to Vote on Stimulus Package Later Today; Support for Students and Institutions Still Being Negotiated
March 24, 2020

​​Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said last night that they were nearing a deal on a $2 trillion economic aid package to help Americans, U.S. businesses, and specific groups—including college students and higher education institutions—survive the coronavirus pandemic.

House Democrats also have unveiled their own $2.5 trillion proposal that will have to be reconciled with whatever the Senate votes to approve.

While final details are still unknown at this point, the latest Senate proposal would provide less than $3 billion for institutions and less than $3 billion for students. ACE estimates that more than $50 billion in immediate direct relief is needed to assist students with costs such as housing and travel and to keep institutions financially stable over the next six months, as well as nearly $8 billion for a technology implementation fund for online learning.

The House would provide at least $24.5 billion for higher education and it could be more, depending on decisions governors make about how to allocate the discretionary funds that they receive. However, as ACE Senior Vice President Terry Hartle told Inside Higher Ed, there is some concern that under the House plan, federal grant money wouldn’t arrive until well into next year.“That will be too late for institutions facing an ‘immediate, short-term cash crisis,’” Hartle said. Without more immediate help, “many colleges will face immediate layoffs, budget cuts to programs and, in some cases, even closure.”

ACE and other higher education organizations last week asked Congress for four things to be included in the stimulus bill: 1. more than $50 billion in emergency relief for students and institutions; 2. access to zero or very low interest loans; 3. $7.8 billion for a technology implementation fund; and 4. temporary statutory and regulatory flexibility to help institutions meet reporting deadlines and get aid to students rapidly.

ACE and over 70 other higher education associations sent letters to both the House and Senate March 20 outlining these priorities.

ACE Supports Charitable Giving Deduction Amendment

Another issue coming to the forefront during the pandemic is the need to bolster charitable giving. ACE and 18 other higher education associations sent a letter Monday to Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) supporting his amendment to the stimulus measure creating an above-the-line deduction for charitable giving for taxpayers not itemizing their deductions.

The bipartisan amendment “would substantially increase the effectiveness of this provision by allowing non-itemizing taxpayers to annually deduct charitable gifts up to one-third of the standard deduction ($4,000 for individuals / $8,000 for married couples),” the letter notes. “Your proposed temporary Universal Charitable Deduction—widely supported by the charitable community—would provide a significant giving incentive for all taxpayers during a time of incredible need. It would also provide immediate support to help colleges and universities continue fulfilling their teaching, research and public service missions.”

Higher Education Groups Recommend at Least $13 Billion for Research Support

ACE, the Association of American Universities, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and the Association of American Medical Colleges sent a letter last week to congressional leaders outlining a four-point plan that will “allow our members to continue to lead in the battle against COVID-19 and ensure that our other research on behalf of the American people will not suffer during these unprecedented times.”

The strategy focuses on key areas that will be effected as the pandemic continues, including support for salary and benefits for research personnel and students; costs of winding down and restarting research activities; increased costs for COVID-19 related research; and inactivity at facilities that support federally funded research.

ACE President Ted Mitchell wrote in an op-ed for The Hill yesterday that while university research is central to solving the puzzle of this virus, our current situation also is a reminder of role higher education plays in advancing the public good.

“It’s the investment in research, this far-reaching university infrastructure, that is paying off right now, of course, in the immediate need to develop treatments, tests and vaccines,” Mitchell wrote. “But it is also higher education’s embrace of the concept of the public good that is helping spur on innovation and breakthroughs even as researchers and their families face all of the personal toll of this immense public health crisis as everyone else.”

ACE Joins NACUBO in Urging Extension for COVID-19 Tax Credits and Extend Filing Deadline for Colleges and Universities

ACE joined the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) and five other organizations on a letter last week to congressional appropriators urging them to extend employer tax credits in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201) to colleges and universities.

The letter says that while the legislation requires colleges and universities to provide expanded paid sick leave, “they are expressly excluded as state government instrumentalities from the corresponding payroll credits meant to offset a portion of these additional costs.” The associations requested that H.R. 6201’s paid sick leave payroll tax credit and payroll credit for required paid family leave be expanded for public colleges and universities, which are among the largest employers in the United States.

The associations also sent a letter​ to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig requesting they include exempt organizations, such as colleges and universities, in a notice that outlines a 90-day tax filing exemption for corporations and individuals. The letter notes that exempt taxpayers and filers should be included in the notice because “they are experiencing the same obstructions and challenges to timely filing and payment as individuals and corporate taxpayers.”