On January 14, President-elect Joe Biden announced the American Rescue Plan, a supplemental COVID-19 relief package targeted at vaccine distribution and strengthening the U.S. economy, including $170 billion for education. Institutions of higher education would be slated to receive $35 billion in addition to the $82 billion Congress allocated to the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund in the December relief package (see CGS summary). The American Rescue Plan would direct emergency relief to public colleges and universities and to Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority-Serving Institutions. The funding would also provide an additional $1,700 per student in emergency grants and $5 billion to a governors’ discretionary fund.
Increased testing and tracing; a national vaccine program; the creation of public health jobs; and accessibility to protective gear are central components in the plan’s COVID-19 response. Extended unemployment benefits; $1,400 stimulus checks per person; and small business relief are also named in the proposed plan. The President-elect urges Congress to move forward with the $1.9 trillion plan, which he will complement in the coming weeks with a separate economic recovery plan. A summary of the rescue plan is available here.
Throughout 2020, CGS advocated for the highest possible sum of emergency relief funding for U.S. institutions. In December, the Council joined a higher education community letter estimating the pandemic has inflicted at least $120 billion in new expenses and lost revenue on colleges and universities. In conjunction with the December relief package, the American Rescue Plan would deliver roughly $117 billion to institutions, the highest level of relief distributed yet to support student and institutional financial needs.
Next Week in Washington: Biden’s Inauguration, Impeachment Process Continues
On January 13, the House voted to impeach President Trump for “incitement of insurrection” related to the violence at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. The Senate must produce a two-thirds vote to convict the President of the House’s impeachment charges and remove him from office. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, and Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao have resigned from Trump’s cabinet in response to the January 6 events.
On January 12, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) responded to the events of January 6 in a dear colleague letter, calling for the upper chamber to immediately confirm Biden’s cabinet nominees, despite the upcoming impeachment trial. With Republicans in the majority until January 20, at which point Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will tilt control to Democrats, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has stated he will begin the impeachment trial on January 19. Although the impeachment proceedings are likely to interrupt the incoming Biden administration’s immediate legislative agenda and confirmation hearings of cabinet nominations, Biden will retain the power to introduce policy changes through executive orders.
SEVIS to Establish New OPT Compliance Unit
CDC Report on Campus-to-County COVID-19 Spread
The report advises colleges and universities with in-person instruction to implement additional strategies to minimize transmission of COVID-19 on campus, including increased testing for students returning to campus and throughout the semester as well as enforced mask-wearing, handwashing, social distancing, and COVID-19 surveillance. The CDC also encourages institutions to collaborate with local officials to strengthen community efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. These practices are even more vital for institutions in close proximity to the broader community as the increases in on-campus cases pose a more significant threat to high-risk populations.
Bipartisan Request for Investigation into Accommodations for College Students with Disabilities during COVID-19
Colleges and universities face a myriad of challenges as the fallout from the pandemic continues. Providing accessibility and accommodations for students with disabilities is essential to ensuring their academic achievement. As the 117th Congress begins, CGS continues to advocate for the highest sum of emergency relief possible to aid institutions in providing the range of services their communities require.