Washington Watch: AACC perspectives on using HEERF funding

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In response to numerous inquiries from member colleges, the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) has produced a document to outline some of the options available to colleges in using the major formula grants of the three Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF). (Note: The document does not address the Higher Education Act Title III and V programs that also receive HEERF funding and other funding sources.) 

Colleges may deploy the formula funds in a variety of ways. Most community colleges have spent all their Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act money and a number have spent substantial portions of their Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA) funding as well, and so have developed plans. 

Coming soon: American Rescue Plan Act funding

As college leaders are aware, substantial additional HEERF funds are headed their way. The American Rescue Plan (ARP), enacted in mid-March, will provide to community colleges approximately 175% of the amount received through the CRRSAA law. AACC aggressively advocated for these funds and an allocation formula reflecting community colleges. AACC anticipates the ARP fund notifications will come sometime next week.

AACC also expects that the release of Rescue Plan funds will come with additional guidance in key areas, including student grants and the precise timetable for expenditure of funds (including options for extensions), which has been unclear. These topics are addressed in the AACC document.) 

The likely forthcoming guidance will probably further shape institutional considerations in spending their HEERF formula funds. The guidance will likely apply to all unspent HEERF dollars, not just those provided through the Rescue Plan. From the U.S. Education Department’s perspective, most HEERF funds are essentially merged, and, on balance, this greatly simplifies institutional administration. One exception is that at least half of the Rescue Plan funds must go to student financial grants, a higher percentage than CRRSAA required for most institutions.

AACC will continue to work with member institutions and the Education Department to facilitate implementation of these key laws. Please contact AACC’s legislative staff if you have any questions related to them.

About the Author

David Baime
is senior vice president for government relations and policy analysis at the American Association of Community Colleges.