As campuses across the country continue to consider what actions may be necessary to halt the spread of the coronavirus known as COVID-19, federal lawmakers and regulators are working to issue guidance and funds.
On the Hill
Congressional lawmakers have already passed two emergency bills to provide short-term relief to the sectors most directly impacted by the virus and have just reached agreement on a third economic relief package that does include provisions for higher education. The legislation, which was passed by the Senate on March 25, contains some direct relief for both institutions and student borrowers, as well as some grant aid provided to state lawmakers, who will distribute it to educational institutions based on highest need. NACUBO will offer a detailed analysis of this third package once it has been passed by the House of Representatives.
NACUBO President and CEO Susan Whealler Johnston sent a letter to congressional leadership on March 22, requesting more comprehensive relief for students, colleges, and universities in the final version of the third bill. NACUBO also has supported efforts for the bill to include a universal charitable deduction and expanded tax-exempt bond tools, among other provisions.
The first coronavirus relief bill Congress passed provided an emergency $8.3 billion for state and local governments to bolster vaccine development, research efforts, and state and local health budgets. The second piece of emergency legislation, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, contained several provisions directly related to K-12 education but did not include any provisions specific to higher education. The bill did have a number of employee- and employer-related provisions, including emergency family medical leave, emergency paid sick leave, and additional funds for unemployment insurance; NACUBO weighed in with concerns that the bill’s related payroll tax credits for employers are not available to public colleges and universities.
Congress also passed a bill, which has been signed by President Donald Trump, to ensure that student veterans will not lose their housing stipends and other educational benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill if their classes are moved online due to the virus. NACUBO and other higher education associations wrote in support of this legislation.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), who serves as ranking member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, has sent Education Secretary Betsy DeVos two letters to date requesting further Department of Education guidance for both K-12 and higher education institutions related to virus outbreak.
Federal Agency Action
Federal regulators also are working to respond to the health crisis. ED has created a resource page with its guidance issued to date for both K-12 and higher education. Most notably, the Office of Federal Student Aid has issued a notice on how to comply with Title IV aid, distance education, Federal Work-Study, and other requirements.
Additionally, the White House has directed that interest accrual on all federal student loans be waived "until further notice." The Office of Management and Budget has also released direction allowing for significant flexibility on reporting requirements and deadlines at agencies that award federal grants, including a permissible delay in submission of Single Audit Act reports beyond their normal due date. The White House also has sent an emergency education spending request to Congress of $150 million, though the bulk of those funds would be earmarked for ED to cover its own coronavirus-related expenses and would not be for colleges and universities directly.
Many federal agencies, including ED, have told their own employees to work from home for the foreseeable future as the spread of the virus in Washington, DC continues.
NACUBO will continue monitoring and reporting on congressional and federal agency efforts to provide new guidance and relief. Additional resources are available on NACUBO’s Coronavirus Resources page. More detailed information about NACUBO's advocacy efforts on behalf of colleges and universities, and how your campus can help, is available on NACUBO's Coronavirus Relief Advocacy page.