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WCC may receive $12M in coronavirus relief funding

Washtenaw Community College may receive nearly $12M in newly authorized coronavirus relief funds. The money comes from nearly $23B earmarked for colleges and universities in the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA). Donald Trump signed the Act in late December.

The second supplemental relief for higher education is nearly 8 times larger than the original CARES Act funding. The grant (including the direct student aid earmark) equals nearly 11% of WCC’s FY21 budget.

Under the program rules, WCC must use approximately $2.5M of the funds for direct student aid. This is the same amount of money the government provided for direct student aid under the 2020 CARES Act. WCC can spend the remainder of the new funds on an expanded array of pandemic-related expenses. It can also use the funds to help cover losses related to COVID-19.

Allowable expenses include:

  • Defraying expenses associated with coronavirus (including lost revenue, reimbursement for expenses already incurred, technology costs associated with a transition to distance education, faculty and staff trainings, and payroll);
  • Carrying out student support activities authorized by the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (HEA), that address needs related to coronavirus; and
  • Making additional financial aid grants to students

Further, WCC may spend any unexpended funds from the CARES Act according to the new rules.

No requirement to mitigate coronavirus losses to employees

While WCC can use the money to support payroll, there is no requirement that it do so. Nor is there any requirement that it use the funds to recall furloughed employees. Or compensate them for salary reductions suffered during the coronavirus pandemic.

Fortunately, Congress had the good sense to prohibit institutions from using the money to “fund contractors for the provision of pre-enrollment recruitment activities; marketing or recruitment; endowments; capital outlays associated with facilities related to athletics, sectarian instruction, or religious worship; senior administrator or executive salaries, benefits, bonuses, contracts, incentives; stock buybacks, shareholder dividends, capital distributions, and stock options; or any other cash or other benefit for a senior administrator or executive.”

Previous CARES Act funding restricted institutional expenses to “cover any costs associated with significant changes to the delivery of instruction due to the coronavirus and/or for additional emergency financial aid grants, subject to certain limitations.”

Additionally, Congress has “strongly encouraged” institutions to focus additional funds on students who have demonstrated the most financial need. This includes offering additional assistance to Pell Grant-eligible students. Students may use the funds to pay for any component of their cost of attendance. This includes tuition, food, housing, and health care (including mental health care) as well as childcare. They may also use the funds to pay for emergency costs.

I don’t know about you but based on how the WCC administration routinely spends our loosely restricted taxpayer dollars, I’ll be interested to see what they come up with.

Photo Credit: Andrew Kuchling , via Flickr