The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act recently signed into law allocated substantial emergency funds to institutions of higher education. On April 9, in a letter to college and university presidents, Secretary DeVos explained how institutions of higher education can access the initial round of emergency funds allocated under the CARES Act.
Detailed guidance about how to apply for emergency funds is available on the Department’s Office of Postsecondary Education website. To apply for funding, institutions must: (1) download and complete the Recipient’s Funding Certification and Agreement; (2) complete the Application for Federal Assistance (SF-424); and (3) complete the Supplement Information Form for the SF-424. Applications must be submitted electronically using grants.gov.
The OPE website also includes a detailed accounting of the funds that have been allocated to each institution of higher education.
Institutions will have significant discretion in how they award those emergency funds to students, as Secretary DeVos explained in her letter:
“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).”
The announcement does not require but recommends that institutions consider the maximum Pell Grant award ($6,195) as the maximum funding amount for each student.
Institutions should also carefully read the required certification and agreement, as it explains how the initial round of emergency funds must be spent. Institutions must agree, for example, that the initial funds will not be used for any purpose other than direct payment of grants to students for their expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus. The Department also expects each institution to explain to its use of the emergency funds, including how it distributed funds, the amount of each grant awarded, and how it calculated the amount of each grant, among other information. Institutions are also required to document that they continued to pay all employees and contractors “to the greatest extent practicable.” We are awaiting further guidance on the meaning of the quoted phrase.
Questions about the CARES Act emergency relief funds can be directed to HEERF@ed.gov.