As Congress continues to address the need for financial relief related to the financial impacts of COVID-19, higher education associations have addressed congressional leadership with their recommendations for Phase 4 of the Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The recommendations come on the heels of Phase 3 of the CARES Act, which allocated approximately $14 billion to higher education as part of the Education Stabilization Fund.
On April 7, the Association of American Universities (AAU), Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities (APLU), Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), and American Council on Education (ACE) sent a letter to House and Senate leadership outlining six areas of impact were identified where substantial personnel and research-related costs will be incurred or there will be a loss of support due to inactivity:
- Sustaining the research workforce until operations return to full speed. This includes support for graduate students, postdocs, early career researchers, principal investigators, and technical support research staff
- Additional COVID-19-related research costs, including but not limited to personnel, personal protective equipment (PPE), supplies, equipment, and additional analytic capabilities.
- Ramp-down and eventual ramp-up of costs to close and restart research activities.
- Inactivity of core research facilities and research and technical staff that support federally funded research by providing instrumentation, equipment, computation, analysis, and other research services.
- Compliance with federal regulations and audits.
- International graduate students and researchers visa status.
Three additional recommendations were made to allocate additional funding to sustain the core of the research workforce and provide temporary regulatory and audit flexibility:
- Supplemental appropriations of $26 billion for the major research agencies, including: NIH, NSF, Department of Energy, Department of Defense Science & Technology programs, NASA, USDA, NOAA, NIST, and others.
- Urge or require that federal research agencies immediately implement uniform guidance and policies that provide flexibility for research institutions during this national health emergency to cover salaries, benefits, and tuition support for graduate students and research personnel engaged in federally sponsored research grants and contracts.
- OMB and the research agencies should be directed to provide temporary regulatory and audit flexibility during the pandemic period and for a year afterwards. Subsequent government audits conducted for this period also should allow for additional flexibility, particularly as it relates to the accounting of time and effort reporting given the extreme and unique situation.
The APLU addressed Congress in a separate letter dated April 8 that outlined five recommendations.
- $$47 billion in emergency funding for students and institutions through the funds disbursement mechanism set up in the CARES Act;
- Extending institutions’ access to low- or zero-interest loans, existing tax credits to offset paid leave and for employee retention, and other tax measures to support institutions and students;
- $26 billion for supplemental funding for federal research agencies to sustain the research workforce until campus operations return to full speed. This includes support for graduate students, postdocs, early career researchers, principal investigators, and technical support research staff;
- Temporary regulatory flexibility across federal agencies to allow institutions to focus precious resources on their response to the spread of COVID-19 and request that agencies suspend regulatory proposals that would impose substantial new burdens on colleges and universities at this time; and
- $80 million for the Cooperative Extension System to strengthen its capacity to support communities during the crisis.
In addition to letters sent to the House and Senate requesting financial assistance, joined by the APLU and 39 other higher education organizations, ACE sent a second letter on Tuesday, April 9, to the heads of the House Committee on Ways and Means and the Senate Committee on Finance, where Oregon Senator Ron Wyden serves as Ranking Member. The letter requested tax policy changes which are intended to support students and institutions of higher education in the Phase 4 COVID-19 pandemic relief legislation.