Massachusetts Joins Legal Challenges to ED Over Implementation of CARES Act

By Hugh T. Ferguson, NASFAA Staff Reporter

Massachusetts is now suing the Department of Education (ED) over its implementation of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which the state says has led to the exclusion of tens of thousands of vulnerable Massachusetts students.

The legal challenge joins separate lawsuits from California and Washington state which have levied similar arguments and have racked up a number of rulings that have blocked the department’s guidance and interim final rule in relation to funds provided by the CARES Act.

“Sometimes the cruelty of this administration stops me in my tracks,” Maura Healey, Massachusetts attorney general, said on Twitter. “They are blocking over a million immigrant students from accessing grants that would help them survive the pandemic — which is ILLEGAL. I won't tolerate abuse or lawlessness — we’re suing.”

The ruling in the California lawsuit, which ED intends to appeal, only applies to community colleges in the state of California, and notably goes a step further than the Washington case in that it blocks the portion of ED’s policy that would prevent international students, those in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and those living in the country illegally from accessing the funds. ED has said that it was congressional intent for the funds to exclude noncitizens.

Congress has reached a stalemate for providing additional aid  that could include additional funding for higher education, with proposals from Senate Republicans and House Democrats still at odds. Meanwhile, the department continues to contest implementation of the CARES Act, and has even suggested that it might make additional changes to the interim final rule.


Publication Date: 8/28/2020

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