• Federal Funding Update

    The House Budget Committee passed its massive $1.9 trillion budget reconciliation bill on Monday, Feb. 22, paving the way for what is expected to be a party-line vote on the House floor by the end of this week. The bill implements the Biden administration’s COVID rescue package and includes $40 billion in assistance to higher education.

    Once passed by the House, the legislation will move to the Senate, where a simple majority will suffice for its passage. But significant restrictions may scuttle important features.

    The higher education provisions of the House version of the reconciliation bill differ from both the Biden COVID rescue proposal and the provisions of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA), which was passed at the end of last year and provided a second supplemental aid package for colleges and universities.

    The Biden administration has proposed a third aid package of $35 billion for institutions of higher education through the use of the Higher Education Emergency Relief (HEER) fund, which was originally created in the CARES Act and funded again as part of CRRSSA. The Biden plan also proposes $5 billion for the Governors Emergency Education Relief (GEER) fund. However, the language of the proposal making its way through the House does not fund GEER and instead puts the $5 billion into the institutional/student pot of aid (or directly into the HEER fund).

    The version of the HEER fund in the House bill differs from the version included in CRRSAA in several ways. First, it would require institutions to spend 50% of their funding on emergency grants for students (as required in the CARES Act but not the second aid package or the CRRSSA) and would allow them to determine which enrolled students receive the aid. It also treats institutions with significant endowments in the same manner as other eligible colleges and universities—a departure from previous policy of requiring them to spend their entire allotment on aid to students.

    Last week, in what is good news for education advocates, the Senate Appropriations Committee announced its full subcommittee memberships, as well as the subcommittee chairs and ranking members.

    While recent changes in Senate Democratic caucus rules had created some doubt as to whether Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) would retain her position as chair of the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee, she maintained the position for this Congress. The Subcommittee’s ranking member continues to be Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO). View a full list of the subcommittees, as well as their chairs and ranking members.