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APLU Statement on House Passage of the HEROES Act

Washington, DC – Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) President Peter McPherson today issued the following statement on the passage of the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act in the House of Representatives.

“The coronavirus pandemic is presenting the nation’s public research universities with the greatest challenge they’ve confronted in the modern era. As communities where thousands or tens of thousands of students, faculty, and staff come together, they are focused on ensuring a safe and healthy environment to study and work. As they do this, they are incurring massive unforeseen expenses combined with massive unforeseen funding shortfalls. Additionally, significant pressures on state budgets are already leading to state cuts that contribute to a financial emergency for public universities. From empty dormitories that may be empty or only half-filled due to social distancing in the fall to a sudden shift to online instruction, to dormant laboratories, and much more, public research universities are under huge financial stress as they seek to continue providing a high quality, affordable education in a safe environment. The implications of these costs will reverberate for many years to come.

“We are pleased to support the HEROES Act as it would address some of these acute challenges. But we ask Congress to work on additional support for public research universities as the legislative process moves forward.

“The bill provides $27 billion through the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund to financially bolster public institutions of higher education and support students. While short of APLU’s request, the funding would go a long way to support institutions essential to the public good. We appreciate the flexibility in the use of funds so institutions can adapt the federal support to the unique needs of their campus communities. We also appreciate the intent of the Maintenance of Effort requirements as federal funds should not supplant state support of public universities. We look forward to working with lawmakers to improve the measure in this area.

“Crucially, the bill would also extend tax credits to help public institutions pay for federally mandated coronavirus-related paid leave under the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act. State entities, which include public universities, were specifically excluded in the prior law from the tax credits meant to help pay for these important leave policies, imposing a massive unfunded mandate on these institutions at a time when they are faced with mounting financial challenges. Recognizing the need public universities have for additional liquidity as they respond to the COVID-19 crisis, we appreciate the House’s work to include non-profits and institutions of higher education in the Federal Reserve’s Main Street Lending Program. As the Federal Reserve considers additional steps to secure medium- and long-term capital for public entities, we ask they will consider the needs of non-profits and public colleges and universities.

“The bill also provides a measure of key funding to the National Institutes of Health to support institutions’ research labs where work has been disrupted and costs have increased due to COVID-19. Additional National Science Foundation funding would help accelerate coronavirus-related research. But many other important federal science agencies that support the nation’s research labs are left out of the bill.

“The bill’s funding for research ramp-down and ramp-up costs are inadequate, as it doesn’t match the need to ensure the nation’s scientific enterprise is positioned to lead to both coronavirus and other research efforts. We can’t afford to fall behind in these areas, which is exactly what will happen if Congress does not extend support for research beyond NIH.

“The pandemic has vividly illustrated the vital importance of public research universities. They have identified promising treatments. They’re on the front lines of treating sick patients. And they’re working to develop vaccines that hold promise to ultimately extinguish the global pandemic. This work has saved countless lives already. We are pleased to support the legislation and grateful to the work of lawmakers championing public universities and our students. We urge Congress to bolster its support of public research universities as the legislative process moves forward.”

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