DOE Officials Indicate First Coronavirus Relief Funds for Students Could Arrive (2020)

April 9, 2020 from CSPEN

Key Takeaways from Department’s Higher Education Stakeholders Call & Letter To Institutions of Higher Education

Top-level U.S. Department of Education officials, including Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Principal Deputy Under Secretary Diane Auer Jones, and Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education Robert King, completed a brief call with Higher Education Stakeholders in which they shared additional information regarding today’s announcement of the release of over $6 billion is federal support for students enrolled in all institutions of higher education.

Several key takeaways from the call included:

1. The need for all institutions of higher education to complete a Certificate of Funding and Agreement, acknowledging the terms and condition of the use of the funds (Note: This will likely require many within our community to establish and account in;

2. Institutions that complete the certification process by this weekend could see student emergency assistance funds delivered for disbursement as soon as next Wednesday; and

3. Institutions of higher education will be given considerable flexibility on how they allocate and distribute the funds, the Department made clear that the funds are not to be used for reimbursement for expenses schools incurred for the like providing laptops, etc.

This information reaffirms the guidance included in a letter each institution of higher education within our community should have already received stating, in part:

“The CARES Act provides institutions with significant discretion on how to award this emergency assistance to students. This means that each institution may develop its own system and process for determining how to allocate these funds, which may include distributing the funds to all students or only to students who demonstrate significant need. The only statutory requirement is that the funds be used to cover expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus (including eligible expenses under a student’s cost of attendance, such as food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and child care). With that said, I would like to encourage the leadership of each institution to prioritize your students with the greatest need, but at the same time consider establishing a maximum funding threshold for each student to ensure that these funds are distributed as widely as possible. As a point of reference, you might consider using the maximum Federal Pell grant (for the 2019-2020 academic year, $6,195) as that threshold. In addition, if you determine that your institution’s students do not have significant financial needs at this time, I would ask that you consider giving your allocation to those institutions within your state or region that might have significant need.

In order to access these funds, all institutions must sign and return the Certificate of Funding and Agreement via: acknowledging the terms and conditions of the funding. After the Department has received the certificate, institutions may draw down their emergency assistance funds using the Department’s G5 system.

The Department is also working expeditiously to allocate the remaining funding that is reserved for institutional use, and we will provide details on how institutions may apply for this institutional funding, as well as for other emergency funding, in the coming days. Thank you for your continued work on behalf of America’s students.”

Stay tuned to CSPEN for more information as it becomes available related to both the student and institutional support provided under the CARES Act.  Noting as highlighted above that your institutions will likely have to apply in the future for your schools’ portion of the funds.  But for now, as the Secretary and Administration have requested, our attention should be on review and submission of the Certificate of Funding and Agreement, submission of the appropriate information, and most importantly determinations of the policies and planning of how your institutions will award the funds to your students.