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CARES Act: Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund

by Stacie Kowalczyk
April 10, 2020

COVID-19 has led to a disruption of lives globally but particularly among college students, many of whom are facing severe financial challenges and struggling to make ends meet. The CARES Act stipulated for approximately $14B to be provided to institutions of higher education with $12B of that to be allocated to institutions based on student enrollment. For the amounts allocated to each institution, at least 50% must be used to provide students with emergency financial aid grants to cover expenses related to the disruption of COVID-19.

The CARES Act does not provide guidelines on how institutions disburse the funding to students, so each institution can have its own system to determining the allocation to students. Funds can be allocated to all students or those who are demonstrating a significant need. A letter issued from the Secretary of Education on April 9, 2020 advises institutions to prioritize students with the greatest need, but at the same time consider establishing thresholds for students to allow funds to have as wide of reach as possible. The Pell grant threshold was one example that was provided in the letter that could be used as a baseline for allocation.

All institutions of higher education needing to access funds are required to sign a Certificate of Funding and Agreement. The Department of Education will then make the funds available for draw down on the Department G5 system to the institution.

The certificate of agreement and the schedule of the institutional allocation for Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act can be found on the Department of Education website. The Department of Education is also working to allocate the remaining $2B of the total $14B which is reserved for institutional use and will provide more information soon.

For regulatory updates and other information on running your organization through disruption, visit our COVID-19 Resource Center.

April 10, 2020

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