NAICU Washington Update

Senate Democrats Propose $430 Billion Coronavirus Supplemental

July 09, 2020

In an effort to jumpstart the negotiations on the next coronavirus supplemental funding bill, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced the Coronavirus Child Care and Education Relief Act (CCCER), to provide additional funding for child care facilities, K-12 schools, and colleges.

Sen. Murray cites budget shortfalls at schools, colleges, and child care facilities, unexpected pandemic expenses, looming state and local budget cuts, and the costs of reopening safely as justifications for a significant federal investment totaling $430 billion. 

For college students and institutions, the bill (full text of the bill; fact sheet) builds on the CARES Act structure, and provides an additional $132 billion in Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF). However, the formula for distribution of funds to institutions is based on headcount, rather than full-time equivalent, which will funnel more dollars to community colleges, rather than institutions where students are more likely to take a larger course load. 

As in the CARES Act, institutions must use at least 50 percent of funds for emergency financial aid grants to students, but Sen. Murray’s bill ensures that any student enrolled in an institution is eligible, regardless of whether or not the student or the program in which they are enrolled is Title IV eligible.  The bill also allows students to use the grants for any component of their cost of attendance.

Colleges and universities can use the institutional portion of the funds to defray a wider list of expenses than in CARES, including lost revenue, reimbursement for expenses already incurred, technology costs associated with a transition to distance education, faculty and staff training, and payroll that are related to the coronavirus emergency. 

The bill includes a set-aside for institutions that enrolled 100 percent of students exclusively online before the emergency declaration, and a set-aside for for-profit institutions. Both of these categories of institutions can only use these funds for emergency financial aid grants to students. 

The bill provides additional funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) and the Strengthening Institutions Program, as in the CARES Act, but does not provide additional funding for the FIPSE portion under CARES. Rather, the bill redistributes any of those unused funds to HBCUs and MSIs. 

To ensure oversight of federal funding, the bill requires emergency funds provided to for-profit colleges be counted as Title IV funding for the purposes of reporting under 90/10. 

Finally, the bill strengthens the CARES Act Maintenance of Effort (MOE) language to protect state higher education and K-12 funding from being cut in state budgets for three years. The language requires that states protect each sector separately, and that state higher education funds include state funding to institutions and state financial aid. 

Next Steps 

How Murray’s CCCER act moves through the legislative process remains to be seen. As the Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, she was closely involved in the creation of the CARES Act, and participated in the recent hearings with public health officials and education officials about reopening schools, colleges and workplaces. Her counterpart, Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN), said publicly he supported additional funding for schools and colleges to reopen safely, and has been collecting estimates from schools and colleges on the costs of reopening. 

The Senate is out of session until July 17, which leaves two weeks for senators to craft legislation and negotiate a final supplemental bill with the House to send to President Trump’s desk before the August recess. 

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