The CARES Act and subsequent legislation provide much needed financial relief to higher education institutions and their students to defray the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The specific manner in which schools may use these HEERF grants, however, has been an ongoing source of confusion. On Friday, the Department of Education (ED) released new guidance and updated existing FAQs to help clarify significant questions about the use of HEERF funds. Together, these new guidance documents signal the ED is encouraging a more flexible approach on how schools may spend these funds, including permitting schools to use HEERF I and II grants to offset expanded categories of costs incurred since March 13, 2020, the date the national emergency was declared. It is expected the ED will formalize the same treatment of HEERF III grants in the near future.
Nevertheless, other significant questions remain, including whether DACA and undocumented students are eligible to receive funds. The ED is working with the U.S. Department of Justice to answer this pressing and important question for our DACA and undocumented students.
The department addresses three significant outstanding questions in the guidance. First, it clarifies that HEERF grants may be used for institutional coronavirus-related costs and student expenses dating back to March 13, 2020, a change from previous guidance. Second, it clarifies that qualified aliens are eligible to receive HEERF emergency grants. Third, it addresses issues surrounding lost revenue as an allowable use of institutional funds.