Presidents of Illinois’ public universities sent the following letter to the state’s congressional delegation Tuesday, seeking additional relief from increasing costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
We write on behalf of Illinois’ public universities to ask for your continued support—and additional federal resources—as we respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With over 180,000 students, more than 48,000 employees and a collective economic impact of greater than $21 billion, our institutions have a crucial role to play in helping Illinois manage and recover from this grave challenge. Over the past several weeks, we have taken unprecedented steps to safeguard the health, well-being and education of our students while maintaining our commitments to our employees and to the communities we serve. These measures have taken a significant financial toll, including:
Refunds for room and board;
Costs of transitioning to online education and telework;
Expenses associated with mitigating and remediating the impact of COVID-19, including assisting relief and response efforts, cleaning our campuses, and safely ramping down research activities;
Lost revenues from cancelled programs and events, closed facilities and delayed grants.
We are grateful for the support Congress has provided to date, particularly the assistance for students, institutions and student loan borrowers included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, enacted March 27. As Congress crafts further legislation responding to the crisis, however, additional relief is urgently needed.
In particular, while the CARES Act included roughly $14 billion for grants directly to institutions of higher education nationwide, that is roughly a quarter of the funding that the higher education community had requested. Collectively, our institutions stand to receive approximately $140 million in direct grants under the CARES Act, at least half of which will be passed on to students for emergency financial aid grants. These institutional funds are welcome, but they do not cover the expenses and revenue losses we have incurred to date, which we estimate at approximately $224 million, let alone the additional costs and losses we expect in the coming weeks and months. Accordingly, we support the request made by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities that Congress provide an additional $47 billion in emergency funding for students and institutions of higher education.
We also ask that Congress provide public institutions with the same assistance that private employers are receiving to pay for the expanded employee paid sick leave and Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) benefits included in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), enacted March 18. We estimate that our universities will expend approximately $195 million to comply with these new requirements. While private employers will receive refundable tax credits to offset the costs of these benefits, FFCRA excluded public employers from eligibility.
We thank you for all that you are doing during this challenging time, and appreciate you considering this urgent request for assistance.