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Shanahan Law Group Transitions to Nelson Mullins

December 1, 2020

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Education

May 7, 2020

DOE Releases Initial Reporting Requirements for HEERF Recipients

By Daniel A. Cohen, Alexis F. Trumble

Section 18004 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act ("CARES Act") established a nearly $14 billion Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (“HEERF”) to support the emergency needs of students and to assist institutions of higher education (“IHEs”) as they cope with the immediate effects of the coronavirus pandemic and related closures. Receipt of HEERF funds triggers various reporting requirements, as discussed in greater detail below.

The CARES Act requires IHEs to use at least 50 percent of HEERF funds to provide Emergency Financial Aid Grants to students for expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus (including eligible expenses under a student's cost of attendance such as food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and child care). As we reported in our earlier update, the Department of Education published documents related to the Emergency Financial Aid Grants, including a letter from Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a Certification and Agreement form institutions must sign and return in order to access funds, and a list of institutional allocations under 18004(a)(1) on April 9, 2020.

The Certification and Agreement directs each institution applying for HEERF funds to submit an initial report (the "30-day Fund Report") to the Education Secretary thirty (30) days from the date the institution submits its Certification and Agreement to the Department. The Department will provide instructions for providing the required information to the Secretary in the near future.

In the meantime, on May 6, the DOE’s Office of Postsecondary Education (“OPE”) released additional details about initial reporting requirements. Each HEERF participating institution must post the information listed below on the institution's primary website. DOE has indicated that it “would like to receive the most current information from the date when the institution received its allocation for emergency financial aid grants to students,” and noted that institutions should have received their allocations within a few days after submitting the Certification and Agreement.

The following information must appear in a format and location that is easily accessible to the public 30 days after the date when the institution received its HEERF allocation and should be updated every 45 days thereafter:

  1. An acknowledgement that the institution signed and returned to the Department the Certification and Agreement and the assurance that the institution has used, or intends to use, no less than 50 percent of the funds received under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act to provide Emergency Financial Aid Grants to students.
  2. The total amount of funds that the institution will receive or has received from the Department pursuant to the institution's Certification and Agreement [for] Emergency Financial Aid Grants to Students.
  3. The total amount of Emergency Financial Aid Grants distributed to students under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act as of the date of submission (i.e., as of the 30-day Report and every 45 days thereafter).
  4. The estimated total number of students at the institution eligible to participate in programs under Section 484 in Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 and thus eligible to receive Emergency Financial Aid Grants to students under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act.
  5. The total number of students who have received an Emergency Financial Aid Grant to students under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act.
  6. The method(s) used by the institution to determine which students receive Emergency Financial Aid Grants and how much they would receive under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act.
  7. Any instructions, directions, or guidance provided by the institution to students concerning the Emergency Financial Aid Grants.

OPE did note that, in preparing the 30-day Fund Report, institutions should use data suppression and other methodologies to comply with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”). Institutions should also take measures to protect any personally identifiable information from student education records as defined in FERPA.

  • For example, DOE does not expect institutions to report information about a group of 10 or fewer students. 
  • For example, if the total number of eligible students, the total of number of students who received Emergency Financial Aid Grants, or the difference between the two numbers is less than 10, then the institution should not display the number of students or the amount of Emergency Financial Aid Grants to students on publicly available website(s) controlled by the institution.

Institutions that accurately report the information listed above will meet the initial reporting requirements. For subsequent reports and reporting for other related HEERF programs, DOE will notify participating institutions of the Department's preferred reporting method. DOE may choose to collect additional information from institutions in accordance with the reporting requirement stated at Section 18004(e) of the CARES Act and the Certification and Agreement.

We will continue to monitor DOE guidance as it is released. If you have any questions or would like assistance in understanding the funding available under the CARES Act, please contact Dan Cohen, Lexi Trumble, or any members of the Nelson Mullins Education Team.



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