The House Rules Committee is expected on Friday to approve the American Rescue Act, and it’s likely the full House will pass it later the same day.
The higher education provisions in the bill brought before the Rules Committee are substantially modified in form, if not effect, compared to legislation passed by the House Education and Labor Committee. The changes are to enhance compliance with Senate legislative budget “reconciliation” procedures. The Senate reconciliation rules strictly limit provisions to only those directly affecting spending, and some of the House bill’s language was deemed to run afoul of the so-called “Byrd Rule.”
But the bottom line for community colleges is the same as that in the measure the education committee approved on February 11. Using largely the same basic program structure and allocation formulas as the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA), the bill would:
- Provide $39.6 billion in higher education spending. This translates into formula grant allocations for colleges that will yield approximately 70% more than the amounts colleges received under CRRSAA.
- Require that at least half of all formula grant funds go toward emergency financial aid grants to students.
- Make funds available through September 30, 2023.
- Provide increases for the Title III and V programs that parallel those for the formula grants.
- Clamp down on the ability of for-profit colleges to evade the “90/10” rule.
If passed, the legislation will go immediately to the Senate floor, rather than being worked on in the individual committees with jurisdiction. Reports indicate that the House legislation is the product of consultations between Democrats in both chambers, and the education provisions are unlikely to change. Congress is under pressure to enact the bill by March 14, when the current extension of expanded unemployment benefits is set to expire.
Webinar on CRRSAA next week
The U.S. Education Department (ED) will hopefully provide further guidance on the law by then. AACC has sent to ED recommendations for implementing CRRSAA to ensure the most expeditious and effective use of funds on community college campuses.