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Higher education institutions have a unique opportunity right now to leverage federal relief available to them in response to the COVID-19 pandemic — specifically to fund a 24/7 telehealth program providing no-cost medical and mental health visits for your student population. This Q&A summarizes how the federal relief funds can be applied to your students’ healthcare needs.
In the context of telehealth, worldview has changed significantly in the past few weeks. We’ve seen most institutions shift their thinking from “Should I launch a telehealth program?” to “How can I launch a telehealth program?” Our team is closely following the current relief aid available to higher education, and will continue to advise our partner and prospective schools on how to leverage these dollars as we rapidly launch new programs.
Update – April 9, 2020: Read the latest update from the Department of Education (DOE).
Q. What is the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund?
A. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress passed the $2 trillion COVID-19 relief package. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) signed into law by President Trump on March 27 includes a $30.75 billion Education Stabilization Fund, with a $14 billion carve-out called the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (section 18004). The funds are provided “to each institution of higher education to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.” According to the DOE letter released on April 9, 2020, “The most significant portion of that funding allocation provides that $12.56 billion will be distributed to institutions using a formula based on student enrollment.”
Specific carve-outs exist for minority serving institutions and small institutions within the $14 billion, and another $3 billion available for state governors to distribute (section 18002). For ACE’s quick summary, click here.
Q. How will the Higher Education Relief Fund dollars be distributed?
A. The bill stipulates that funding will be distributed by the Secretary in the same manner that other Title IV aid is distributed — 75% of all FTE Pell Grant recipients and 25% of all FTE non-Pell Grant recipients. Students who were enrolled exclusively in online, distance education courses prior to the COVID-19 emergency will be excluded from this calculation.
Q. How much of the $14 billion will my institution receive?
A. (Updated – April 9, 2020) The U.S. Department of Education has released its plan for distributing $14 billion of the federal stimulus to colleges and universities. The list of planned allocations for each institution can be found here.
Q. Does my institution need to submit anything or apply to receive our allocated dollars?
A. (Updated – April 9, 2020) Yes. In order to access these funds, all institutions must sign and return the Certificate of Funding and Agreement via grants.gov Applicant Registration, acknowledging the terms and conditions of the funding.
Q. When will my institution receive its allocated funds?
A. (Updated – April 9, 2020) After the Department has received the certificate for the student portion, institutions may draw down their emergency assistance funds using the Department’s G5 system for the student portion. The Department of Education is working expeditiously to allocate the remaining funding that is reserved for institutional use, and there will be further details on how institutions may apply for this institutional funding, as well as for other emergency funding, in the coming days.
Q. What are the guidelines regarding the use of these funds?
A. According to the CARES Act, institutions of higher education can use 50% of the funds for institutional purposes, and must use 50% of the funds for student purposes. Specifically, the act says that the institutional funds are “to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus” so long as such costs do not include payment to contractors for the provision of pre-enrollment recruitment activities, endowments, or capital outlays associated with facilities related to athletics, sectarian instruction, or religious worship.
Click here to view a blog on this topic from higher ed experts at Pepper Hamilton, LLP.
At minimum, the CARES Act requires each institution to allocate 50% percent of all relief funds received to provide for emergency aid to students in response to disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus. Healthcare is included as an eligible expense.
Q. Does this mean I can use a portion of these dollars to fund a TimelyMD telehealth program for my students?
A. Yes. The TimelyMD team has engaged with healthcare and higher education consultants along with relevant legal counsel on this topic. Their collective review of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund concluded unanimously that a telehealth program to take care of your students’ physical and mental health needs, as they are all dispersed across the nation, is a good example of the purpose for which these funds are intended. TimelyMD offers short-term and long-term telehealth programs.
Q. Do I need to wait for the funds to arrive to launch a telehealth program for my students?
A. No. We are happy to draft an agreement and launch your program now to immediately address the student healthcare needs that your institution faces, while delaying all invoices for your telehealth program until relief funds are made available to you.
Please note this summary is not a comprehensive summary of the CARES Act or Higher Education Relief Fund. There are also tax provisions, employee retention credits, and other opportunities for your institution to examine in relation to leveraging federal aid available in response to COVID-19. Should you need expert advice in this area, please reach out to us, as we have resources and consultants we are happy to share with you.
Q. What is TimelyMD?
A. TimelyMD is a telehealth company focused on keeping higher education populations healthy by providing access to 24/7 quality medical care and counseling. We exclusively serve student populations, and all of our providers are trained and passionate about student care. TimelyMD will develop a tailored telehealth program for your college or university. Our approach to program development is one of continuous exploration with your institution to ensure that our program fits well into your current infrastructure, which allows the university to remain in control of how healthcare is delivered. Our partnerships with higher education institutions result in a healthier, more engaged student population.
Please contact us via our website, call 833-484-6359 or use the chat feature on this page to learn more.
Summary of Higher Education Provisions in CARES Act – American Council on Education
CARES Act: Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund – Department of Education