Congress Passes FY2021 Budget Resolution; COVID Relief Update
The Senate approved the FY2021 budget resolution to unlock reconciliation. The House passed the measure on a 219-209 vote last Friday. The resolution directs authorizing committees to draft sections of a budget reconciliation bill that will be based on President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief proposal.
With the resolution clearing both chambers, authorizing committees are beginning to markup pieces of the $1.9 trillion legislation this week. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told reporters she hopes to have a bill ready for the Senate in two weeks. APLU has created a resource document outlining the specific relief request for public research universities.
The Education and Labor Committee late last night in a marathon markup advanced its component of the reconciliation bill. The measure provides $39.6 billion in another Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF). Consistent with HEERF in the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA) enacted in December, an institution’s funding is determined as follows:
In a departure from CRRSAA, for the first four categories (37.5%, 37.5%, 11.5%, 11.5%), half of an institution’s funding must be used for student grants. For the latter two categories (1%, 1%), all of the funding must be used for student grants.
HBCUs and MSIs will receive additional funding from a set aside of 7.5 percent of the $39.6 billion within HEERF. APLU is working on a comprehensive analysis of the measures passed by House committees, which will share in a future update.
Biden Takes Executive Action on Climate Change and Scientific Integrity
President Biden signed executive orders addressing climate change, scientific integrity, and reinstating the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). The executive order on climate change puts the issue at the center of U.S. foreign policy, creating a new Special Presidential Envoy for Climate to sit on the National Security Council. The order also establishes several key offices and councils to help address climate change, including the White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy, White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council, White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council, and National Climate Task Force. Additionally, the order outlines strategies to reduce climate pollution in important sectors of the economy and protect public health through innovation, commercialization, and deployment of clean energy technologies and infrastructure.
The president also issued a memorandum on scientific integrity and evidence-based policymaking, directing government agencies to make decisions based on the best available science and data. The memo also “charges the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) with the responsibility for ensuring scientific integrity across federal agencies” and orders agencies that oversee, direct, or fund research to designate “a senior agency employee as Chief Science Officer to ensure agency research programs are scientifically and technologically well founded and conducted with integrity.”
Higher Ed Community Urges Departments of State and Homeland Security to Support International Students
APLU and other higher education organizations sent a letter to Department of State Secretary Antony Blinken congratulating him on his confirmation and bringing attention to major issues of importance to the higher education community. The letter urges Secretary Blinken to allow flexibility for consular officers in interpreting an international student’s intent provision when adjudicating student visa applications; work with the Department of Homeland Security to ensure the timely and efficient processing of visa applications and work authorizations for international students and scholars; and push Congress to enact legislation that would allow for “dual intent” when international students apply for a non-immigrant student visa.
APLU and higher education partners also sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to congratulate him on his confirmation and to bring his attention to issues of importance to the higher education community relevant to his role. The letter outlines the significance of President Biden’s executive order on DACA and recommends the following policies to help support international students: withdraw duration of status proposed rule; repeal DOL wage rule and H-1B lottery rule; make clear Optional Practical Training will stay in place; restore the Homeland Security Academic Advisory Committee; ensure DHS officials at ports of entry are properly instructed to follow official DHS guidance allowing international students to enter the United States; and coordinate with the Department of State to guarantee efficient processing of visas and work authorizations for international students.