How much aid will community colleges receive in the next COVID-19 stimulus package? A Comparison of Proposals
With Congressional leaders engaged in negotiations with the White House over what the next COVID-19 stimulus legislation should include, we compared the various proposals that have been introduced thus far.
The Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) continues to advocate on behalf of the nation’s community colleges for strong support in the next COVID-19 stimulus legislation. Our focus has centered on securing at least $46.6 billion for institutions of higher education and their students; distributing these funds using a headcount formula; and securing workforce development funding for community colleges. ACCT’s full list of priorities for the next round of stimulus funding is available here.
Since May, several stimulus proposals have been introduced, reflecting the priorities of each side at the Congressional negotiating table. Below is an overview of what House Democrats, Senate Democrats, and Senate Republicans have stated as their positions, along with a table outlining where each bill stands as it pertains to ACCT’s top three stimulus priorities:
Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act
The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act represents House Democrats’ priorities for a fourth pandemic response bill. It passed the House on May 15, mostly along party lines.
The $3 trillion measure includes a $90 billion State Fiscal Stabilization Fund aimed at addressing funding shortfalls in elementary, secondary, and higher education. This funding includes approximately $26.7 billion for public higher education institutions. The funding is allocated by a formula under which 75% is based on the total enrollment of Pell students at an institution, and 25% of funding is based on the relative share of non-Pell enrollment. In line with ACCT’s advocacy, this formula is based on student headcount.
The HEROES Act also provides explicit flexibility to institutions, allowing them to use their funds for education and general expenditures; emergency grants to students; or for the acquisition of technology and services directly related to distance education. This flexibility would allow institutions to backfill lost revenue and deploy funding more efficiently than they were able to under the CARES Act. The HEROES Act also bars the Department of Education from placing arbitrary restrictions on the use of funding or narrowly defining “students” for emergency aid purposes.
The bill also includes a maintenance of effort (MOE) clause, which requires states to spend the same percentage of their budget on higher education for FY 2020, 2021 and 2022 as they did in FY 2019.
Finally, the bill expands the student borrower relief included in the CARES Act to all borrowers and extends it for an additional year. The bill also provides a $10,000 debt forgiveness for economically distressed student borrowers.
Coronavirus Child Care and Education Relief Act (CCCERA)
On June 30, Senate Democrats led by Minority Leader Schumer and Senator Murray, introduced the Coronavirus Child Care and Education Relief Act (CCCERA) in an effort to address the adverse impacts of COVID-19 on child care providers and educational institutions. The CCERA is not a comprehensive stimulus package, unlike the HEROES and HEALS Acts.
The bill includes $345 billion in new stabilization funding for education: $132 billion of which would be allocated to public colleges and universities using the same formula as the HEROES Act. CCCERA also authorizes a $2 billion community college and industry partnership grant program aimed at increasing the capacity of community colleges to develop and scale career training programs that support high-skill, high-wage or in-demand industry sectors and occupations.
Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protections, and Schools (HEALS) Act
On July 27, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protections and Schools (HEALS) Act as the Senate Republicans’ position for a fourth stimulus legislation.
The bill authorizes an additional $105 billion for the Education Stabilization Fund established in the CARES Act. $29.1 billion is designated for higher education through the CARES Act’s Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF). Under the HEERF, public institutions of higher education would receive $24.7 billion using a formula based 90% on colleges’ Pell grant FTE and 10% on non-Pell FTE students. While slightly different from the formula used in the CARES Act, the HEALS Act formula also does not account for the needs of part-time students in light of the ongoing pandemic. Therefore, ACCT continues to advocate for a headcount formula in future stimulus legislation.
The HEALS Act would allow institutions to use their formula funds to defray COVID-19 related costs for institutions, backfill lost revenue, and provide emergency grants to students. However, the HEALS Act does not contain specific language around student eligibility for emergency grant purposes, leaving the door open for ED to impose eligibility restrictions as they did during the CARES Act implementation.
The legislation also contains a 5-year liability shield for educational institutions, businesses, and healthcare providers, so long as they follow state and federal guidance regarding the pandemic.
Finally, the bill proposes to consolidate student loan repayment plans into two options: 1) a 10-year repayment plan; and 2) an income-based repayment plan. The bill does not extend the CARES Act student loan relief.
José Miranda is ACCT's Senior Government Relations Associate and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Katie Brown is ACCT's Director of Government Relations and can be reached at email@example.com
Allison Beer is ACCT's Senior Policy Analyst and can be reach at firstname.lastname@example.org