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Washington Update

APLU Analysis of HEROES Act 2.0
APLU’s Office of Governmental Affairs has prepared a detailed high-level summary of key policy provisions and funding of interest to APLU institutions in the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act 2.0, House Democrats’ updated Phase IV COVID-19 relief bill.

The $2.2 trillion package, more than $1 trillion below the original HEROES Act passed this past May, would provide relief for state and local governments, healthcare workers, K-12 and institutions of higher education, small businesses, federal agencies, and other critical segments of the economy impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of particular note, HEROES 2.0 would provide $39 billion to institutions of higher education, approximately $2 billion above what is included in the original HEROES Act, but far below the higher education community’s updated request of $120 billion to cover reopening costs, address substantial losses and expenses of institutions, and provide support to students. The additional higher education funding in HEROES 2.0 is targeted toward HBCUs and MSIs. HEROES 2.0 also includes $3 billion in research relief funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and an additional $1 billion for NIH to expand COVID-19 research. In a positive change from the original HEROES Act, HEROES 2.0 would appropriate $2.9 billion to the National Science Foundation to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, including to fund research grants, extensions of existing research grants, cooperative agreements, scholarships, and fellowships. Unfortunately, the bill does not include research relief funding for other federal science agencies. See bill text, section by section summary, one-pager, and state and local relief provisions.

The House is expected to vote on the legislation as soon as this week. Although Speaker Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin have resumed Phase IV negotiations, it is unclear if a compromise will be reached. Speaker Pelosi and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows expressed new optimism yesterday.

APLU’s analysis of the original HEROES Act is available here.

FY2021 Appropriations Update
Last week, the House passed H.R. 8319, the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2021 and Other Extensions Act by a vote of 359-57. The continuing resolution (CR) would extend current government funding levels until December 11, 2020. The bill includes an extension of emergency Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) flexibilities for student veterans whose education is disrupted because of the pandemic, including an extension of special authority to the VA to continue paying GI Bill education benefits if a school closes or ceases all in-person instruction for another year; funding for the 2020 Census; and extends the availability of funding for the National Institutes of Health multiyear research grants.

The Senate is expected to consider and pass the legislation today before the fiscal year ends at midnight. President Trump is expected to sign the bill.

White House Issues Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping
On September 22, the White House issued an Executive Order (EO) on “Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping.” The EO aims to limit sexual harassment, diversity and inclusion, and other Equal Employment Opportunity trainings and programs the administration considers “offensive and anti-American race and sex stereotyping and scapegoating.” The EO outlines distinct processes by which restrictions could apply to recipients of new federal contracts and grants.

With some possible exceptions, new federal contracts beginning on November 21 will include prohibitions on workplace trainings on “divisive concepts” as outlined by the EO. With respect to grants, federal agencies are instructed to report to the White House Office of Management and Budget within 60 days on how restrictions may be applied to grant recipients.

Law firms Hogan Lovells and Wilmer Hale have developed more comprehensive summaries.

APLU is monitoring the EO, assessing implications for public universities and considering possible future action.

DHS Publishes Duration of Status NPRM
Last Friday, the Department of Homeland Security published its long-awaited Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on “Establishing a Fixed Time Period of Admission and an Extension of Stay Procedure for Nonimmigrant Academic Students, Exchange Visitors, and Representatives of Foreign Information Media.” The rule, commonly known as the duration of status rule, would establish fixed terms of up to two to four years for international students and exchange visitors on F and J visas to complete their degrees. The NPRM indicates students would be able to extend their stay “if the additional time needed is due to a compelling academic reason, documented medical illness or medical condition, or circumstance that was beyond the student’s control.” Currently, international students can remain in the United States as long as they are enrolled in school and comply with the policies related to their immigration status. A summary of the NPRM from Inside Higher Ed is available here.

The administration has defended the NPRM by arguing the rule is needed to reduce overstays and visa fraud. However, the proposed rule is extremely concerning as it would shift away from a system that recognized that most students do not traditionally complete their degrees within four years. The rule also does not take into account the six to eight years it typically takes Ph.D. students to complete degree requirements. Additionally, the rule would limit initial visa terms to two years for certain students based on if their country of origin is classified as a state sponsor of terrorism or if the country of origin has a student visa overstay rate of over 10 percent. Other notable changes include a “limit on the number of times students can change programs at the same degree level or move to a program at a lower degree level…and reduce the time international students can stay in the U.S. after completing their course of study or authorized work program from 60 to 30 days.”

NAFSA: Association of International Educators has developed a helpful issue brief explaining the possible problems of moving from duration of status to specific dates of student visa expiration.

APLU will work with partner associations to submit comments on the proposed rule and urges APLU institutions to consider writing your own comments on how the NPRM would negatively impact international students and institutions. Comments are due by October 26, 2020.

Senate Democrats Introduce LEADS Act
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and Senate Democrats introduced the America Labor, Economic Competitiveness, Alliances, Democracy, and Security (America LEADS) Act. The proposal lays out the Senate Democrats’ outlook for a new U.S.-China policy that takes “steps to invest and establish policies to mobilize all aspects of U.S. national power to counter the threat China poses to our national and economic security.”

The bill would invest $350 billion to expand the Manufacturing USA network and Manufacturing Extension Partnership, restore investment in federal research and development programs and research infrastructure, strengthen supply chains and critical technologies, and provide support and funding for industries of the future. The bill also focuses on combating Chinese government theft of intellectual property and espionage and contains limitations on Confucius Institutes and changes to foreign gift and contract reporting under Sec 117 of the Higher Education Act

  • Council on Governmental Affairs

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