house democrats unveil new $39B relief bill

House Democrats Debate New $39B Relief Bill for Higher Ed

The 2020 pandemic has taken a heavy toll on America’s higher education system as House Democrats unveil a new $39B relief bill. Congress was able to pass a similar plan back in May with nearly as much funding. While Democrats likely have the votes to approve the bill in the House of Representatives, the Republican-controlled Senate will have the final say.

The new version of the broader Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act is not expected to pass the way it’s currently written due to opposition from President Trump and the Senate. Much of the debate hinges on provisions and the amount of funding, as the total economic stimulus package supported by Democrats is worth $2.2 trillion.

The proposed HEROES Act, which was passed by the House in the spring, originally called for $3 trillion in relief funding. However, it hit a brick wall with Senate Republicans, who criticized multiple provisions that had nothing to do with the pandemic. The bill is designed to supplement the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by Congress and signed by President Trump in March.

While Republicans want to decrease spending, the American Council on Education (ACE) affirms that higher learning institutions need at least $120 billion for economic recovery. The revised bill proposes $27 billion for public campuses to be extracted from a $208 billion state stabilization fund. The proposal calls for distributing funds to institutions based on enrollment and existing Pell Grants.

Proposed Use of the Funds

This massive financial aid for colleges and universities can be used to train faculty and staff members on new technology that facilitates online classes. Clearly, shifting toward digital solutions meets requirements for social distancing, as students can learn from home. Once in place, online platforms will help schools save money on energy, equipment, and supplies while cutting students’ transportation costs.

Transformation to digital solutions will take time for faculty and staff to learn new technology. IT specialists will be needed to ensure the digital infrastructure is set up properly. Other uses for the funding include general expenses for issues stemming from losses caused by the pandemic. The money can also provide students with emergency financial aid.

For schools to receive this funding, states will have to maintain spending levels for postsecondary education at 2019 fiscal year levels through the 2022 fiscal year. However, this ideal will be challenging since the pandemic has led to various losses in revenue from tuition and other traditional campus income sources.

Spreading the Money to Stabilize Education

The new relief bill for higher education proposed by House Democrats may be modified to include $12 billion to benefit other specialized types of education. Within this amount, $3.5 billion may go to colleges devoted to African-American students, while $7 billion will be given to private, nonprofit, learning institutions. Another $1.4 billion will be allocated to schools that have been adversely affected by pandemic shutdowns.

ACE officials, who called CARES Act funding of $14 billion for higher education to be “woefully inadequate,” have requested House Democrats to consider $120 billion in funding for over 40 educational organizations. According to ACE President Ted Mitchell, member institutions have lost over $120 billion due to expenses associated with COVID-19. These costs include expenses incurred for coronavirus testing, contact tracing, treatment, and virtual classrooms.

Even though the existing HEROES legislation is not expected to pass in the Senate, the various proposals it entails can serve as a basis for new negotiations preceding the November elections.

The debate in Congress over higher education spending is heating up as the two major parties are at conflict regarding funding levels and how the money will be allocated.

Contact us at McKnight Associates, Inc. for more information on the new $39B relief bill for higher education proposed by House Democrats. We are ready to offer assistance on human resources consulting for universities, colleges, and companies.