These past 15 months have been difficult for almost everyone. The pandemic has caused upheaval in so many lives, especially students. One of the things that have impacted students is lockdown orders and distance learning. Last year schools closed because of the pandemic, and this year many public schools are still remote only. Although studies are underway, we won’t know the impacts of this shift for a while.
However, the U.S Department of Education has worked to provide federal assistance to help bridge gaps, especially when it comes to issues like students being able to learn properly at home. The latest stimulus bill provided federal dollars to go to education. And now the U.S Department of Education has announced guidance regarding the use of the funds to help both students and institutions.
The U.S Dept. of Education Releases Guidance for COVID-19 Funds
So, what exactly does this mean?
Well, let’s talk about it. The first stimulus package signed into law had several provisions. The CARES Act established the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund to help fill gaps in education caused by the pandemic. Of the $2.2 trillion CARES price tag, around $14 billion went towards creating this program, with the funds awarded to the Office of Postsecondary Education to create the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF). Next, the program received $81.88 billion in the second stimulus package, the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act. And, in the latest package, the American Rescue Plan, HEERF received almost $40 billion.
The issue was there was a limited scope use of those funds under the CRRSA. One of the provisions for the use of funds is that the expenses would have incurred on or after Dec. 27, 2020, which was when the bill became law. Now the U.S. Department of Education has issued new guidance for usage of these funds.
Guidance on These Funds Will Help Students and Institutions Recover
Here’s some of the things included in the new guidances, which will include amends to the cost change. This new guidance also informs how the recipients of these grants can charge for “lost revenue” to their HREEF grants.
The guidelines will include:
- A focus on supporting students with exceptional needs. This guidance informs Colleges and Universities that they can offer grants and financial aid for dual enrollment, continuing education, non-credit, and non-degree seeking students. It also allows for these universities to offer financial aid to students with “exceptional needs” like certain types of refugees and people seeking asylum.
- Authorize educational institutions to use grant funds to discharge student debt and support critical student services. In addition to grants to be made available directly to students, this guidance also allows for universities to discharge student debt so students can continue studying even through an economically difficult time. Schools can also help subsidize student child-care which is a major economic burden.
- Expand flexibility on how reimbursement funds can be spent. This will allow institutions to be more flexible with how they spend these funds. Colleges will be able to use grant funds to reimburse themselves for lost revenue and expenses incurred as far back as Mar. 13, 2020, which is when the state of emergency was officially issued.
Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, spoke on the guidance: “One of my first priorities is to ensure that institutions of higher education have the financial support and resources needed to support their students and mitigate the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 emergency. Our latest actions will help campuses address those challenges.”
GrantWatch Cares About Student Access to Education
At GrantWatch, education is personal to us. Our founder is an educator who has always stressed the importance of education and accessible education. This is why we’re so proud to be able to list a grant category for Education-related grants. We also have a grant category for Elementary education as well as one for Teachers. And beyond help for education, we list hundreds of COVID-19 related grants.
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