Biden Unveils Top Legislative Priority: Pandemic Relief, With Expanded Higher Ed Funding

By Hugh T. Ferguson, NASFAA Staff Reporter

Ahead of his inauguration next week, President-elect Joe Biden pitched his administration’s top legislative priority — a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill, including $170 billion directed toward education.

Overall, the package puts an emphasis on funding for school reopenings calling for $130 billion to provide K-12 schools with the necessary resources to safely reopen and, if necessary, facilitate remote learning.

On the higher education front, the plan calls for an expansion of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF), asking Congress to provide $35 billion in funding to public institutions. According to a press release provided by the transition team, the funding would provide each student with up to $1,700 in financial assistance from their college.

Biden’s plan also calls for providing $5 billion in funds for governors, similar to the Governor's Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund, to use to support education in the hardest hit communities for students “significantly impacted” by COVID-19. Those funds could be allocated to any educational institution, whether it be K-12, higher education, or early education.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) who is slated to lead the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, called for Congress to act on Biden’s proposal immediately.

It appears that Biden will aim to have the legislation advanced in a bipartisan manner. However, should negotiations stall, Congress could choose to take up its first budget reconciliation package that would only require a simple majority from both chambers.

The trajectory of enacting this package will demonstrate the incoming administration’s ability to operate on a legislative front in which Democrats hold an incredibly narrow majority.


Publication Date: 1/15/2021

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