Legislative Update Regarding COVID-19 and the Education Sector
April 21, 2020
NAEA is actively engaged in monitoring additional legislation to support for the arts, cultural and education sectors as part of Federal Funding to offset the impact of COVID-19.
The U.S. Department of Education has launched three new funding initiatives:
- $3 Billion in Emergency Education Block Grants for Governors (April 14)
- $6 Billion in Emergency Cash Grants for College Students Impacted by Coronavirus Outbreak (April 9)
- New Funding Flexibilities to Support Continued Learning During COVID-19 National Emergency (April 6)
Secretary DeVos Announces $3 Billion in Emergency Education Block Grants for Governors
April 14, 2020
WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced today that nearly $3 billion will quickly be made available to governors to ensure education continues for students of all ages impacted by the coronavirus national emergency. The Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund, authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, is an extraordinarily flexible “emergency block grant” designed to enable governors to decide how best to meet the needs of students, schools (including charter schools and non-public schools), postsecondary institutions, and other education-related organizations. “Governors have the opportunity to truly rethink and transform the approach to education during this national emergency and ensure learning continues,” said Secretary DeVos. “At a time when so many school boards and superintendents have shut down learning for the balance of the school year, I want to encourage each and every governor to focus on continuity of education for all students. Parents, families, teachers and other local education leaders are depending on their leadership to ensure students don’t fall behind.” In an effort to get these emergency funds to states as quickly as possible, the Department has streamlined the application process and reduced the red tape and delays typically associated with the award of federal grant funds; all that is required is the completion of a brief application, which can be digitally signed and submitted in PDF to the email address GEERF@ed.gov. The application, including instructions to apply, is available on the Department’s website at https://oese.ed.gov/offices/education-stabilization-fund/governors-emergency-education-relief-fund/. Once states have submitted the signed PDF, the Department expects to obligate the funds within three business days.
To see state allocations for the GEER Fund click here. Today’s announcement comes on the heels of the Secretary’s quick action to implement the CARES Act and distribute more than $6 billion to colleges and universities to provide direct emergency cash grants to college students whose lives and educations have been disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak.
Secretary DeVos Rapidly Delivers More Than $6 Billion in Emergency Cash Grants for College Students Impacted by Coronavirus Outbreak
First wave of CARES Act funding will provide aid to students for expenses like course materials, technology, housing, food, health care, and childcare.
April 9, 2020
WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced today more than $6 billion will be distributed immediately to colleges and universities to provide direct emergency cash grants to college students whose lives and educations have been disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak. The funding is available through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law by President Donald J. Trump less than two weeks ago.
“What’s best for students is at the center of every decision we make,” said Secretary DeVos. “That’s why we prioritized getting funding out the door quickly to college students who need it most. We don’t want unmet financial needs due to the coronavirus to derail their learning.”
The CARES Act provides nearly $14 billion to support postsecondary education students and institutions. Colleges and universities are required to utilize the $6.28 billion made available today to provide cash grants to students for expenses related to disruptions to their educations due to the COVID-19 outbreak, including things like course materials and technology as well as food, housing, health care, and childcare. In order to access the funds, the Department must receive a signed certification from the higher education institution affirming they will distribute the funds in accordance with applicable law. The college or university will then determine which students will receive the cash grants.
School allocations are set by formula prescribed in the CARES Act that is weighted significantly by the number of full-time students who are Pell-eligible but also takes into consideration the total population of the school and the number of students who were not enrolled full-time online before the coronavirus outbreak. The Department is utilizing the most recent data available from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and Federal Student Aid (FSA) for this calculation. Institutions will receive allocations and guidance for the institutional share of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund in the coming weeks. Institutions will be able to use these funds to cover costs associated with significant changes to the delivery of instruction due to the coronavirus.
Additional information on institution-level funding for students, including data tables, can be found here. The Secretary’s letter to college and university presidents with additional information on this funding allocation can be found here.
The funding allocations announced today are part of the nearly $31 billion Congress allocated to the Department to distribute to students, K-12 schools, and higher education institutions under the CARES Act. The Department, at the Secretary’s urging, is working to make funds available as quickly as possible. Under the Secretary’s leadership, the Department has taken quick action to support higher education students from the start of the coronavirus outbreak. Colleges and universities were given immediate regulatory flexibility so students’ educations could continue online. The Secretary also provided student loan relief to tens of millions of borrowers by setting all federally held student loan interest rates to zero percent and allowing borrowers to defer payments for 60 days without interest. The CARES Act extends those benefits to six months. The Department also stopped all federal wage garnishments and collections actions for borrowers with federally held loans in default.
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos Authorizes New Funding Flexibilities to Support Continued Learning During COVID-19 National Emergency
April 6, 2020
WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced today a new streamlined process for providing states funding flexibilities to best meet the needs of students and educators during the COVID-19 national emergency. The new flexibilities, authorized under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, allow schools to repurpose existing K-12 education funds for technology infrastructure and teacher training on distance learning, among other flexibilities to move resources to areas of highest need during the national emergency.
“Across the country, students, teachers and families are proving that learning can and does happen anywhere,” said Secretary DeVos. “By extending additional funding flexibility to schools, we are helping to ensure student learning continues and supporting teachers as they transition to virtual classrooms. Local leaders have asked for the ability to steer more resources to local needs, and these new tools will help them do just that.”
The CARES Act, signed into law by President Donald J. Trump on March 27, now allows states and school districts to devote more of their federal resources to technology infrastructure to support distance learning for students and for professional development for teachers who are teaching remotely, many for the first time. By providing a streamlined process to obtain funding flexibilities, states will be able to quickly make decisions to meet the needs of their students.
Any state may complete a brief form available at oese.ed.gov, and it will receive an initial determination within one business day. Using the form, states can receive flexibility in the use of funds and other requirements covered under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), including the Title I, Parts A-D, Title II, Title III, Part A, Title IV, Parts A-B, and Title V programs. Specifically, states may request a waiver of: Section 1127(b) of Title I, Part A of the ESEA to waive the 15% carryover limitation for Title I, Part A funds; Section 421(b) of the General Education Provisions Act (GEPA) to extend the period of availability of prior fiscal year funds, for Title I, Parts A-D, Title II, Title III, Part A, Title IV, Parts A-B, and Title V, Part B programs, and the McKinney-Vento Homeless Children and Youth program; Section 4106(d) of Title IV, Part A of the ESEA to waive a needs assessment to justify the use of funds; Section 4106(e)(2)©, (D), and (E) of Title IV, Part A of the ESEA to waive content-specific spending requirements; Section 4109(b) of Title IV, Part A of the ESEA to waive spending restrictions on technology infrastructure; and ·Section 8101(42) of the ESEA to waive the definition of “professional development,” which might otherwise limit the ability to quickly train school leaders and teachers on topics like effective distance learning techniques.
This action follows the Department’s earlier announcement of a turnkey waiver process allowing states to cancel federally-mandated standardized testing, in response to widespread school closures in the wake of the declaration of a national emergency. Since that announcement, Secretary DeVos has approved waivers for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It further builds on the Department’s actions to support states and local education leaders since the outbreak of COVID-19, including guidance on ensuring students with disabilities have access to distance learning opportunities and providing an extension for states that need additional time to develop career and technical education plans under the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V).