On May 11, the Department of Education announced roughly $36 billion in emergency grants through the American Rescue Plan for postsecondary institutions. The accompanying frequently asked questions (FAQ) document details new guidance from the Biden Department of Education, which expands recipient eligibility for the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) III to include all students enrolled at a U.S. institution at the onset of the pandemic, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients, other undocumented students, and international students. Following the department’s final rule on the issue, the FAQ states that “all students who are or were enrolled in an institution of higher education during the COVID-19 national emergency are eligible for emergency financial aid grants from HEERF, regardless of whether they completed a FAFSA or are eligible for Title IV.” Institutions must ensure that funds go to students who have exceptional need. More information on this particular change can be found in questions 7-12 of the document. This guidance reverses the previous eligibility requirements that barred certain groups of students from receiving grants through HEERF, particularly if they were ineligible for federal student aid. Throughout the pandemic, CGS has advocated for Congress to expand eligibility to allow all students to receive emergency funds.
Recent Federal Actions on Title IX
On May 12, a federal judge dismissed Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s efforts to defend the Trump administration’s Title IX rule in an ongoing case against the regulations. Paxton argued that the Biden administration’s review of all Title IX-related actions is “openly hostile to the Final Rule.” The judge’s action is the latest in a series of legal battles regarding the regulations.
On April 30, a bipartisan group of lawmakers reintroduced the Accountability of Leaders in Education to Report Title IX Investigations (ALERT) Act. The legislation would implement reporting standards for institutions when cases of sexual misconduct involving university employees arise. University leaders, the institution’s president or equal, would be required to review all sexual abuse investigations reported to the Title IX coordinator that involve faculty or staff. The institution would also be required to certify that the officials reviewing the case had not “interfered with or inappropriately influenced” the investigation. The legislation was previously introduced in 115th and 116th congressional sessions.
Endless Frontier Act Markup Yields Bipartisan Support
A number of amendments were adopted during the session. The Committee’s Chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) proposed an amendment to protect U.S. research against Chinese espionage; clarify how institutions would receive money authorized by the legislation; and reserve some of the legislation’s funding to NSF’s programs in basic research, rather than entirely to a new technology directorate at NSF. The original bill would have authorized $100 billion for the new directorate. The Committee further reduced spending explicitly earmarked for the new directorate with an amendment by Senators Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) that retains some of the funding for the Department of Energy’s national laboratories.
House Budget Hearing on HHS, Appropriations Timeline Released
Secretary Becerra requested Congress’ support for the funding increase to support the creation of the Advanced Research Projects Agency on Health (ARPA-H), a research and development agency, which would be modeled after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). DARPA is responsible for the development of emerging technologies for use by the military. Secretary Becerra emphasized the creation of ARPA-H would spur partnerships between public and private entities and steer federal dollars towards research on diseases such as Alzheimer’s and cancer, among others. Congresswoman Kim Schrier (D-WA) emphasized the latter, noting the success that Operation Warp Speed had in developing a vaccine to combat the coronavirus due to targeted federal investments. Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA) addressed the increased need for telehealth services during the pandemic. Noting Congress’ ongoing efforts to introduce telehealth reform, Matsui and Becerra agreed that there are possible regulatory changes that can make telehealth more accessible prior to a legislative solution.
Also, this week, House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) announced the intent that subcommittee and committee markups on the twelve House appropriations bills for fiscal year 2022 (FY22) will be held in June, with floor passage expected in July. Stakeholders are invited to submit written testimony to the committee, which is due Wednesday, May 19. A timeline for the Senate’s twelve appropriations bills has yet to be released. Keep up with CGS FY22 appropriations advocacy here.