“We appreciate critical support for higher education in the Senate Republican package, but a lot more must be done as the legislative process moves forward. The $29 billion in emergency funding for higher education will help colleges and universities with unprecedented financial challenges. Additional support is needed to address massive expenses to prioritize safety on campus, help financially stabilize institutions suffering from precipitous declines in revenue, and provide critical support to students.
“The legislation’s inclusion of temporary, limited, coronavirus-related liability protections for institutions that make appropriate efforts to adhere to public health guidance is critically important to universities reopening their campuses where it is safe and prudent to do so.
“On the research side, supplemental funding for the National Institutes of Health is essential to ensuring the U.S. can maintain the world’s leading biomedical research enterprise. Two-thirds of the additional funding is allocated to research relief, ensuring that pandemic-induced disruptions and increased costs don’t permanently sidetrack research, graduate students, or clinical trials. The pandemic has underscored not just the value of advancing the frontiers of medicine, but also the urgent need to address chronic health inequities in the United States. With bolstered funding, NIH will be in a strong position to address the intractable health challenges we face. Yet without similar support for research agencies across the federal government, we run the risk of losing an entire cycle of innovative scientific research. Our country can’t afford to fall behind.
“Unfortunately, the bill also omits some other key measures. Previous legislation created critically important coronavirus-related paid leave for workers in the U.S., but excluded state entities from tax credits to offset the cost to employers. As a matter of fairness, Congress should extend these credits to public institutions of higher education to resolve an unfunded federal mandate.
“At a time when the importance of public universities’ mission to advance education, research, and community engagement has rarely been clearer, we call on lawmakers to ensure they meet the scale of the immense challenges facing public higher education.”