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Washington Update

Negotiations Stall on Phase IV Package; White House Issues Executive Orders
On August 7, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows announced they had failed to reach a deal on a Phase IV COVD-19 relief package. The size of the relief bill, as well as aid directed to state and local governments, led to an impasse in the talks.

The Senate has adjourned until after Labor Day and the House is reconvening this week. A looming September 30 deadline to fund the government for the coming Fiscal Year is seen as one potential path to a coronavirus relief package.

The Senate Republican HEALS Act, which totals approximately $1 trillion in spending, is substantially less than the House-passed HEROES Act’s $3.5 trillion.

Following the deadlocked negotiations, President Trump announced a series of executive actions to reimpose an eviction moratorium, defer federal payroll tax payments, reinstitute federal unemployment payments, and continue the suspension of student loan payments.

The executive order on student loan payments would expand the CARES Act provision and pause monthly payments and interest for many student loan borrowers until December 31, 2020. Democrats have advocated for extending the CARES Act provision for at least another year. Last month, APLU sent a letter to congressional leadership urging them to extend the grace period for student borrowers entering repayment by an additional six months and to expand temporary relief provisions for federal student loan borrowers enacted in the CARES Act until September 2021 or until unemployment falls below 8 percent for three consecutive months.

APLU continues to engage lawmakers on the importance of a Phase IV supplemental package that would provide much-needed relief funding for institutions of higher education.

Associations Urge State and DHS to Ensure Entry for International Students
Last week, APLU joined the Association of American Universities, the American Council on Education, and NAFSA: Association of International Educators on a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of State urging the agencies “to work together to safeguard the ability of new international students enrolled in hybrid academic programs at U.S. institutions to have their visas processed and enter the country, as outlined in the combined July 15 and July 24 Immigration and Customs Enforcement FAQ document.”

The letter cites recent port-of-entry issues and visa processing delays for international students enrolled in hybrid programs and requests the agencies share any additional guidance necessary to ensure students can safely enter the U.S. to begin the fall semester.

White House Releases FY2022 R&D Budget Priorities
On August 14, White House Office of Management and Budget Director Russ Vought and Office of Science and Technology Policy Director Kelvin Droegemeier released the administration’s FY2022 research and development (R&D) budget priorities. The document outlines the administration’s continued emphasis on biomedical and biotechnology R&D, diagnostic, therapeutic, and vaccine research.

For the third straight year, Industries of the Future—artificial intelligence (AI), quantum information science (QIS), and advanced communications networks—are listed as top priorities. Other priorities include targeted federal investments in R&D to preserve and protect American security; harmonized investments in R&D and science and technology (S&T) workforce to ensure the nation’s economic prosperity and national security; and R&D investments that improve research environments that strengthen the security of the U.S. research enterprise, reduce administrative burdens on federally-funded research, improve rigor and integrity in research, and create safe, diverse, inclusive, and equitable research environments for all members of the research enterprise.

NIH Seeks Information on University COVID-19 Testing
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) issued a request for information on university-based approaches for COVID-19 surveillance testing. The agency hopes to use information collected to review current approaches to testing and is particularly interested in comments on the feasibility of carrying out such university-based network activities at scale; resources needed to jointly develop robust surveillance testing capabilities for students, faculty and staff, and possibly for other critical institutions in their local communities; novel network approaches to efficiently manage testing capacity among institutions and collaborate with other university-based networks to rapidly learn from protocols, approaches, and challenges to optimize operations; types and frequency of testing, including the technologies and approaches that could be utilized; risks and challenges that might impact the successful establishment and operations of a learning network; and proposed mitigation strategies to address the potential risks and challenges.

Many institutions have dedicated significant time and effort to create COVID-19 testing policies and procedures on their campuses. APLU encourages our members to share their experiences, effective practices and cost estimates with the NIH.

Comments are due by August 26, 11:59pm ET.

  • Council on Governmental Affairs

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