STATEMENT: New Emergency Aid Rule Shines Light on the Dysfunction and Cruelty of the Trump Administration’s Implementation of the CARES Act

Washington D.C. — Today, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos issued a new regulation restricting which college students can receive emergency aid through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The rule goes into immediate effect.

First, the U.S. Department of Education issued a FAQ weeks after the passage of the legislation telling colleges that they could not disburse emergency grants to anyone who does not qualify for the agency’s federal financial aid programs. A month later, the department updated its guidance, stating that the “guidance documents lack the force and effect of law.” Now, more than 60 days after colleges could apply for the funds, the department is reaffirming its initial nonbinding guidance. 

In response, Ben Miller, vice president for Postsecondary Education at the Center for American Progress, issued the following statement:

The CARES Act was written broadly to get dollars to institutions and students quickly. Doubling down on bad guidance after seemingly walking away from it creates unnecessary confusion and will make it harder for colleges to get much-needed assistance to students.

Many colleges and universities have already established plans and procedures to distribute their emergency aid funds. Now, they’ll have to change course yet again to comply with DeVos’ confusing, unnecessary, and exclusionary guidance going forward. The rule is designed to deny help to some of the most vulnerable students, such as those who are undocumented or haven’t completed a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), by making them ineligible for emergency aid at a time when all students are feeling the effects of the global pandemic.

The Department of Education has shown it can’t be trusted with discretion in awarding relief dollars. Congress must prevent the agency from adding these extralegal requirements and complexities.

For more information or to speak with an expert, please contact Colin Seeberger at or 202-741-6292.

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