Required Reporting for Colleges and Universities Receiving Emergency Relief Funds
Institutions of higher education (IHEs) that received emergency relief funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the CARES Act) must report certain designated information to the U.S. Secretary of Education within 30 days of signing the certification for the funds. Through the CARES Act, the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) made millions of dollars available to IHEs and their students to cover some of the financial deficits caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The CARES Act mandates that HEERF recipients submit a report to the Secretary describing how the recipient is using the funds. Until recently, IHEs had not received any guidance regarding the timing, contents or scope of the required report to the Secretary.
The U.S. Department of Education (ED) issued preliminary guidance on April 9, 2020, and requires all HEERF fund recipients to submit a report to the Secretary within 30 days of signing the Certification and Agreement. This 30-day report must include, for example, information on how grants to students were distributed, information on each individual grant and the methodology that the IHE applied to determine the grant amount to each student. The preliminary guidance did not, however, explain how reports should be submitted, when must it be updated and what other information must be included.
ED released additional guidance on May 6, 2020, and stated that further instructions for providing the 30-day report are forthcoming. Pursuant to the new guidance, an IHE recipient of HEERF monies must publish information on the IHE's primary website within 30 days after receiving the allocation of funds. The public posting must be updated every 45 days and must also include the total amount of grants distributed to students, the total allocation of HEERF relief received by the IHE and the methodology utilized by the IHE to determine which students received emergency grants.
ED has held that institutions meeting the website posting requirements described above will satisfy their obligations for initial HEERF reporting requirements. For additional reports and updates, the Department will provide further guidance.
IHEs are well advised to follow carefully ED's additional guidance on this topic, tracking how HEERF funds are used and posting the information properly. For assistance in complying with these obligations or other CARES Act concerns, please contact the authors or other members of Holland & Knight's Education Team.
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