Congress passes 4th COVID relief and Omnibus spending bills

On Monday, Dec. 21, Congress passed a $900 billion 4th COVID-19 pandemic relief package. The relief package is paired with an Omnibus spending bill to finalize the FY21 budget. The relief package includes another round of direct payments to individuals; enhanced unemployment benefits, support for struggling industries and small businesses, and funding for vaccine distribution. A summary of the proposal can be found here.

Funding in the relief package that affects college students and higher education institutions includes:

  • $20 billion for higher education, with a split between institutions of higher education and students as established by the CARES Act passed in March;
  • $4.05 billion to the Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund (GEER), which is a billion more than was distributed via the CARES Act;
  • An extension that allows states and local governments another year to spend their CARES funds but no separate allocation;
  • $22 billion to states for more testing and tracing;
  • Various employment/unemployment provisions;
  • Additional funds to the National Institutes of Health (NIH); and 
  • $28 million in supplemental funding to the Institute of Education Sciences for activity related to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

Of note in the Omnibus spending bill is an increase to the Pell grant by $150/year and a restoration of eligibility to those enrolled in prison education programs.

As of Dec.22 at 9 a.m. PST, the bills are awaiting signature by President Trump.