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Education

April 23, 2020

DOE issues guidance on the use of the CARES Act’s Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF)

By Sherry Culves

In new FAQs on Emergency Student Aid portion of HEERF and FAQs on Institutional Portion of HEERF, the US DOE explained the requirements relating to the 50% of HEERF  that must be used to provide emergency financial aid grants to students as well as clarified how the remaining institutional funds may be used.  The guidance explains:

  • An IHE must complete and submit the HEERF Funding Certification and Agreement for Student Aid prior to applying for the Recipient’s Institutional Costs. The HEERF Funding Certification and Agreement for Institutional Funds is now available.  Additional step-by-step guidance on applying for both the Student Aid and the Institutional Funds is also available on the US DOE’s HEERF Website
  • IHEs may not use the Emergency Student Aid funds to reimburse themselves for refunds provided to students for room, board, tuition, fees, or for technology and equipment provided to students. Nor can these portion of the funds be used directly by IHEs to satisfy outstanding or overdue student bills. However, IHEs may use the Institutional Funds for these purposes so long as the refunds or costs were incurred on or after March 13, 2020 and were necessitated by a significant change in the delivery of instruction due to COVID-19.    
  • IHEs may only reimburse themselves from the Emergency Student Aid funds for emergency grants provided to students if the grants were made:(1) for authorized expenses related to disruption of campus operations as a result of COVID-19; (2) to students who are or could be eligible to receive Federal Financial Aid; and (3) were made on or after March 27, 2020.   IHEs may also make additional emergency financial aid grants to students from their Institutional Funds under these same criteria.  
  • IHEs may not use the Emergency Student Aid funds to reimburse themselves for wages paid during COVID-19 disruptions to student workers. However, the US DOE reminded IHEs of the additional flexibility under the Federal Work-Study (FWS) Program that waives the non-federal wage match requirements and allows FWS funds to be used to pay these students for the remainder of the current academic year as long as they had started employment prior to March 13, 2020 and were disrupted as a result of COVID-19.  Further information on FWS flexibility is available in the US DOE’s Updated Guidance for Interruptions of Study Related to COVID-19.
  • Only students who are or could be eligible to receive Federal Student Financial Aid under Section 484 of Title IV may receive Emergency Student Aid grants under either portion of HEERF.  Students who have filed a FAFSA automatically qualify. Students who have not filed a FAFSA but who meet Section 484’s eligibility requirements relating to citizenship, social security number, registration for selective service (males), and high school graduation/equivalency are also eligible.  
  • Students enrolled exclusively in online programming on March 13, 2020 are not eligible for Emergency Student Aid funds because these funds are aimed at assisting students with expenses relating to disruption of campus operations. Likewise, IHEs may not use their Institutional Costs to provide emergency financial aid grants to students who were enrolled exclusively in online programs prior to the national emergency on March 13, 2020. 
  • An IHE may only use the Recipient’s Institutional Costs to award scholarships or provide payment for future academic terms if the costs are associated with significant changes to the delivery of instruction due to COVID-19 or (if provided in the form of emergency financial aid to students) are for expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to COVID-19.  
  • IHEs may use the Institutional Funds to pay a per-student fee to a third-party service provider, including an Online Program Management (OPM) provider, for each additional student using a distance learning platform, learning management system, etc., however IHEs may not use the Institutional Funds to pay third-party recruiters or OPMS to recruit or enroll new students.    

If you have any questions or would like assistance in understanding the funding available under the CARES Act, please contact Sherry Culves or any members of the Nelson Mullins Education Team.
 



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