ED Publishes Clarification on Previously-Announced Reopening of HEERF Application Process

By Jill Desjean, NASFAA Policy & Federal Relations Staff

Today, the Department of Education (ED) published a clarification to its Dec. 23, 2020 Federal Register (FR) notice announcing the reopening of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) application process for funding under Section 18004 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act for certain institutions.

The clarification was necessary because ED’s authority to allocate unobligated HEERF funds from CARES Act Section 18004(a)(1) changed with the December 27 passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021. According to Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act, Section 314(d)(4) of the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act, those funds now must be allocated to institutions using the formula established in Section 314(a)(1), which weights institutional allocations based on relative shares of total student enrollment and full-time equivalent (FTE) student enrollment of Pell Grant recipients and non-Pell Grant recipients.

ED notes that it can neither accept nor process new applications for funding under CARES Act Section 18004(a)(1), and also cannot process any applications it received prior to enactment of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 that were submitted in response to the Reopening Notice.

This applies only to new institutional applications for CARES Act Section 18004(a)(1) funds, and not to unexpended allocations already awarded to institutions by ED or to new funds appropriated under the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act. Institutions continue to have one calendar year from the date they received their CARES Act Section 18004(a)(1) awards to spend those funds. 

ED clarifies that it can continue to accept applications for CARES section 18004(a)(2) and (a)(3) HEERF programs for institutions that meet the criteria detailed in the Dec. 23, 2020 Reopening Notice. 

Finally, ED indicates in the notice that it will issue guidance in the future as to how institutions can apply for new funding opportunities created in Section 314 of the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act.


Publication Date: 1/6/2021

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