Congress Preps Narrow Short-Term Spending Plan

By Hugh T. Ferguson, NASFAA Staff Reporter 

With a flurry of legislative activity the annual appropriations process is slated to keep the government operational throughout the weeks ahead with a short-term spending plan.

The continuing resolution has been tossed around in recent days as a potential vehicle for other legislative priorities, like the debt ceiling, and is now slated to be advanced by both chambers before the onset of a government shutdown.

The Department of Education’s (ED) annual budget relies on the appropriations process and daily operations could be impeded without a congressionally approved budget or a short-term funding patch. 

While the Senate has not yet drafted legislation concerning ED’s annual budget, House Democrats recently passed a measure that would include a 41% increase above the fiscal year (FY) 2021 enacted level for ED programs, matching the president’s budget request of $102.8 billion in discretionary appropriations for ED.

Congress, following enactment of the current short-term spending proposal, will continue debating a number of policies related to the budget through early December at which time they’ll need to complete the annual budget or come to another agreement to keep the government operational.

Should the government experience a shutdown, many of the resources students and financial aid administrators rely on day-to-day will continue to be available. For instance, students can still complete a FAFSA, and schools can still originate and disburse Pell grants and Direct Loans via the Common Origination and Disbursement (COD) system, since those products are managed by outside contractors.

ED issued guidance in 2018 about which systems and services would be available in the event of a shutdown; they have not yet issued guidance for this year’s potential shutdown, but it would presumably be similar to the 2018 guidance.

Schools would also continue to be able to use the G5 system to draw down federal student aid funds. NASFAA anticipates that a shutdown would not impede institutions that have been allocated funds under the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) from drawing down said funds. However, it is likely that those with HEERF grant applications in process would see a delay in receiving final decisions, given that staff who would normally process those requests would be furloughed as non-essential federal employees.

Stay tuned to Today’s News for developments on the annual appropriations process as well as coverage of the reconciliation process.


Publication Date: 9/30/2021

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