On Friday, the Department of Education (ED) released new guidance on the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) grants authorized by Congress in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and later supplemented in the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021 (CRRSAA) and in the American Rescue Plan (ARP).
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.
The updated guidance signals ED’s intent for institutions to have as much flexibility as possible when using their HEERF funds so they may address the financial impacts of COVID on their students and infrastructure to the fullest extent possible.
“We commend the department for hearing the financial aid community’s pleas for additional flexibility to meet their students’ needs,” said NASFAA President Justin Draeger. “We anxiously await guidance on additional questions, specifically on eligibility for DACA and undocumented students, but this additional flexibility and clarity should pave the way for schools to expedite getting funds into students’ hands.”