Over the holidays, Congress was very busy with major deliberations about what the most recent COVID-19 supplemental would include, and Congress eventually passed a $900 billion package. This measure was attached to the larger $1.4 trillion government funding bill to keep the federal government open.
COVID-19 stimulus bill
Included in this COVID relief bill are some important higher education measures, such as a $22.7 billion higher education relief fund. While the amount is higher than the $14 billion that the higher education community received in previous COVID-19-related legislation, it is much lower than the $120 billion that the higher education community had asked Congress to include in the relief package. Moreover, the package does not include an extension of the suspension of student loan payments, which is set to expire on January 31, 2021.
Of note in the 2021 fiscal year appropriation was:
- a $150 increase in the maximum Pell grant award to a new amount of $6,495. It also restores Pell eligibility for individuals in prisons and individuals defrauded by their colleges. In addition, the legislation includes language that will reform the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) from 108 questions to a maximum of 36. No timeline has been provided for when this new form will be launched and replace the current one.
- major veteran legislation--the Johnny Isakson and David P. Roe, M.D. Veterans Health Care and Benefits Act (H.R. 7105), which included a modified version of the Protect the GI Bill (H.R. 4625). Over the summer, AACRAO and other higher education associations voiced concerns about some provisions and were successful in removing a requirement for monthly certification of student veterans and modifying others. However, other concerning measures remain in the bill that could create unintended consequences for veterans and institutions, such as a change in overpayments and new language on the collection of student debt.
For updates on what is transpiring in Congress and the Administration, we encourage you to sign up for the monthly updates that the AACRAO government relations team sends via our advocacy listserv.