CARES Act: Higher Education and COVID-19

The federal government has taken several steps to address challenges faced by faculty, students, and staff in higher education related to COVID-19, including the passage of the CARES Act on March 27, 2020.

The legislation includes several avenues of relief for higher education institutions. Governors will receive a share of $3 billion to provide emergency grants for local education agencies and institutions of higher education in the state. $14 billion is made available exclusively for higher education institutions to respond to the coronavirus, half of which is reserved for emergency grants to students. The funds can be used by institutions to defray expenses for expenses such as technology costs for distance learning and grants to students for food, housing, course materials, health and childcare.

The CARES Act also provides $75 million in support to the National Science Foundation for research related to the virus and an additional $1 million for award management. The NSF set up an information center including, FAQs for current grantees and panelists. The NSF also issued a Dear Colleague letter noting the agency is accepting proposals through existing funding opportunities and the RAPID funding mechanism “to conduct non-medical, non-clinical-care research that can be used immediately to explore how to model and understand the spread of COVID-19, to inform and educate about the science of virus transmission and prevention, and to encourage the development of processes and actions to address this global challenge.”

The National Endowment for the Humanities received $75 million in the bill. That funding falls far short of what humanities advocates requested. Reps. David Price and Chellie Pingree requested $500 million for the NEH. Although less than requested by advocates, the funding is an important first step to support humanities organizations. Of the $75 million, 40 percent of the funding will provide emergency support to local humanities councils, and 60 percent will provide direct grants to other humanities organizations. Information for NEH grantees is available here.