NAICU Washington Update

Private Colleges and Universities Included in House Committee COVID Relief Bill

February 11, 2021

As the next step in the reconciliation process, the House Education and Labor Committee wrote its bill to authorize COVID relief funding for programs under its jurisdiction.  Unlike President Biden’s framework for the American Rescue Plan, which did not include all private, nonprofit colleges, the committee’s bill included the equitable treatment of all private, nonprofit colleges and universities and their students.  

The bill includes $170 billion for Education Stabilization, with $40 billion for higher education, and $130 billion K-12 education. According to a fact sheet provided by the committee, the bill also provides for a phase-in of a $15 federal minimum wage, emergency child care and child nutrition funding, and some health provisions. The size and scope of the bill led to strong opposition to the proposal by Republicans on the committee, thus it passed along party line votes.

Specifically, the $40 billion breaks down to provide:
  • $36 billion for institutions, half of which must be spent on student emergency grants
  • $3 billion for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority-Serving Institutions
  • $396 million for proprietary institutions
  • $198 million for institutions hardest hit by the pandemic
This bill is written as if it were an amendment to the CRRSAA, thus the formulas for institutional distribution, the uses of funds, and other details of that bill apply to the new funds, with the following exceptions: 
  • 50% of the institutional funds must be spent on student emergency grants 
  • Institutions are the sole determiner of which students receive grants
  • The endowment tax restriction in CRRSAA does not apply to these funds
  • Institutions “shall use a portion of such allocation to implement evidence-based practices to  monitor and suppress coronavirus in accordance with public health guidelines”
  • Institutions “shall use a portion of such allocation to conduct direct outreach to financial aid applicants about the opportunity to receive a financial aid adjustment due to the recent unemployment of a family member or independent student, or other circumstances”
“More than a year after the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in the U.S., we are still losing thousands of people each day to the virus, millions of workers remain unemployed, students are falling further behind, and an unprecedented number of families are struggling to put food on the table,” said Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA).  “We must take bold and immediate action to defeat the pandemic and provide relief to our communities. The Education and Labor Committee’s portion of the American Rescue Plan will help bring students and educators back into the classroom safely, increase paychecks and strengthen protections for American workers, and address the unprecedented surge in hunger and hardship affecting so many children and families across the country.” 

Statements during the hearing from both sides of the aisle encompassed safely re-opening schools and colleges, ensuring working parents have safe child care, the impact of virtual learning on the education disparities, and the mental health and stress inflicted on teachers. 

The next step in the process is for the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee to write its version of the bill. Once both committees have written bills, they will work out any differences, then send the final product to the Budget Committees. The Budget Committees in each chamber will combine the education bills with the bills from the 11 other committees into a single reconciliation package for final passage. In the House, consideration of reconciliation does not have special rules. But in the Senate, the reconciliation process allows for “fast track” consideration, by limiting debate to 20 hours (thus no filibuster), and requiring only a simple majority (50 votes, not 60) for passage. 

The House Ways and Means Committee also marked up its own COVID relief bill in a two-day session.  The bill comprises spending for about half of President Biden’s American Rescue Plan.

While this bill does not have any specific provisions for colleges, it would extend the employee-retention tax credit, the paid sick and family leave credit, and the 50% federal coverage of unemployment insurance for nonprofits that self-insure.  All of these have been important for many private, nonprofit institutions.

The Ways and Means bill also includes direct payments to individuals, an extension of unemployment assistance, and enhanced child, earned-income, and health related credits.  


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