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DeVos Education Department Rules Out Students from CARES Act Emergency Assistance

Fast-tracked rule will make it harder for millions of students to receive emergency aid provided by Congress to address basic needs during Covid-19 pandemic

Moments ago, the United States Department of Education released an interim final rule to prohibit institutions of higher education from offering access to student emergency assistance grants funded by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. By requiring eligibility for Title IV federal financial aid to qualify for emergency support, the rule effectively prohibits students who are undocumented or have residency status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The rule also adds a layer of complication for millions of other students–including many student veterans.

Following publication of the rule, Kyle Southern, Policy and Advocacy Director for Higher Education and Workforce for Young Invincibles, issued the following statement:

“It’s shameful the Education Department is exhausting every avenue in pursuit of the administration’s xenophobic policy agenda–all during a pandemic. The Department’s effort to exclude hundreds of thousands of tax-paying students from assistance they deserve will also continue to cost millions of other students struggling to make ends meet. Rather than go through a standard rulemaking process, Secretary DeVos is fast-tracking a rule that will add further chaos to implementing the CARES Act while denying students the baseline of support Congress has provided with nearly unanimous support.

The courts should rebuke this effort based on a plain reading of the law. But this action shows Congress must amend the CARES Act to prohibit the Secretary from imposing arbitrary restrictions on emergency assistance based on qualifications beyond a student’s enrollment at a college or university. The HEROES Act would accomplish this goal.”

A May 20, 2020 analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service determined “the Secretary’s interpretation is not a particularly persuasive reading of the statute.” This week courts heard arguments for lawsuits brought by the states of California and Washington against the Department to lift the restrictions put in place by its previous eligibility guidance.