NACE Advocacy: Coronavirus Legislative and Regulatory Issues
In March and April 2020, as a member of the Washington Higher Education Secretariat, NACE signed on to a number of position statements aimed at improving legislation ameliorating the effects of the coronavirus crisis or dealing with regulatory actions that may hamper the response. These positions include:
- Support for continuing educational benefits to veterans for courses they are now forced to take online. Veterans’ educational benefits can technically be discontinued if their course of study is interrupted. College class closures as a result of the coronavirus could leave these students in financial jeopardy when classes resume. The Secretariat letter asked Congress to pass legislation that forestalled this possibility.
- A request to the Department of Education (DOE) to delay new regulations covering Title IX (sexual harassment complaints) and Section 117 (reporting of foreign gifts) until the coronavirus crisis subsides. The letter asks for a delay in the implementation of the regulations during a period when colleges and universities are consumed with operational and governance issues resulting from disruptions due to the virus situation. DOE is currently intent on moving forward with the new regulations to take effect in August 2020.
- A request to increase financial support in the House and Senate stimulus bills for higher education institutions and student loan aid and forgiveness. The American Council on Education (ACE) estimated that the cumulative loss to institutions of higher education from lost tuition and room and board revenue as a result of virus-related closures could amount to $50 billion. The original Senate stimulus bill contained $6 billion for higher education. The Secretariat letter urged Congress to increase the amount to $20 billion. The final stimulus package contained $13 billion for higher education.
- Support for emergency legislation to lift state licensing regulation for physicians in order to allow for more widespread use of telemedicine during the pandemic. Although outside of traditional concerns of the NACE Advocacy Advisory Committee, its Policy Action Group decided to endorse the Secretariat’s letter urging Congress to temporarily suspend state licensing requirements for doctors licensed to practice in other states. The intent is to make a physician licensed to practice in Colorado, for example, able to treat patients in New York through telemedicine. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services loosened regulations for telemedicine during the coronavirus crisis. In addition, waivers for telemedicine services have been issued for 48 states plus the District of Columbia.
- A letter to Secretary of Education DeVos to expedite the distribution of funds contained in the enacted stimulus legislation. Since stimulus funding was legislated, NACE is asking the Department of Education to distribute the revenues as soon as possible given critical financial needs faced by many colleges and universities. The letter requested the Department of Education to distribute the revenues as soon as possible given critical financial needs faced by many colleges and universities. Secretary DeVos issued an order fast-tracking the distribution of emergency aid to schools and students.
- A letter regarding exempting Student Emergency Grants from federal taxes. The current interpretation is that the emergency grants are taxable. The letter to House and Senate leadership in the Ways and Means Committees requests legislation exempting student emergency relief issued under the CARES Act from federal taxes. As of April 22, 2020, there has been no action taken.
- A letter requesting student borrower relief. NACE signed on to a letter to the leadership of the House of Representatives asking for additional relief for student loan borrowers both currently in school and those graduates paying back student loans. This is intended as part of the fourth stimulus package; as of April 22, 2020, this has yet to be enacted.
- Comments on the Main Street Lending Program. The letter asks the Federal Reserve to specifically indicate that schools and universities are eligible for the Main Street Lending Program (a portion of the CARES Act) and that student workers are not counted in calculating the number of employees. As of April 22, 2020, there has been no action taken.
- Recommendations on higher education taxes. The higher education community is seeking a host of tax changes to ease financial burdens during the coronavirus crisis. Some of these tax changes have already been applied to private institutions; the document requests that public institutions be given the same tax breaks. Other changes are designed to further reduce burdens on students, such as the elimination of tax liability for non-tuition grants-in-aid. As of April 22, 2020, there has been no action taken.
- A recommendation for supplemental support for higher education. The request is for financial assistance to the amount of $46 billion in an anticipated fourth stimulus bill. The $46 billion would be divided equally between students, who would receive emergency grants to cover financial hardships resulting from the pandemic, and institutions to cover losses from declining tuition as a result of an expected drop-off in enrollment. As of April 22, 2020, there has been no action taken.
- Financial Services CARES Act Limitation. NACE signed on to a request to Banking Committee chairs in the House and Senate to pass legislation specifically authorizing that institutions of higher education be eligible for loans under the Main Street Loan Program established by the CARES Act. Currently, there is some confusion about this eligibility.
- Education authorizers regulations. NACE signed on to a request to Congress to pass legislation covering a host of technical issues that limit a student’s use of financial assistance. Among these are educational costs that may not be covered by Title IV of the Higher Education Act.
- Small Business Administration program limitations under CARES Act: NACE signed on to a request to Small Business Committee chairs in the House and Senate to pass legislation specifying coverage for institutions of higher education within the Payroll Protection Program and the COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Emergency Advance and Loan program.
- Support for emergency research funding. NACE endorsed bipartisan legislation that would provide emergency funding for researchers and research operations at universities.
- Processing of international student visas under current proclamation restricting entry into the US under the virus emergency. NACE with other associations sent letters to the Secretaries of State, Homeland Security, and Labor, who are charged with reviewing non-immigrant entry to the United States, to expedite the processing of international student visa requests.
Updated April 30, 2020