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Iowa Central manages federal COVID relief funding

Iowa Central received a total of $3,204,692 in total federal first round of CARES Act (COVID) relief funding in the spring of 2020, of which $1,526,599 was used for institutional costs associated with significant changes to the delivery of instruction due to the CARES Act. (COVID)

The institutional funds received from the CARES Act were used to cover any costs associated with significant changes to the delivery of instruction due to the coronavirus, emergency grants for enrolled students, as well as losses associated with COVID.

The federal law required we invest at least an equal amount of our federal institutional COVID relief funding, $1,526,599, on behalf of student related emergency needs, which we did do via direct grants to students, with an average grant per student of $1,257.50. 1214 students received grants ranging from $500-$2,000, depending upon their need.

Congress has since approved in December 2020 and President Donald Trump signed it into law on Dec. 27, 2020, the second federal COVID relief package, which will provide Iowa Central an additional $6.4 million. This funding requires us to invest at minimum an amount equal to what we distributed to students, or $1,526,599 in 2020.

The new relief approved in December 2020 requires that institutions prioritize student portion of the new funding to students with exceptional need, such as students who receive Pell Grants, in awarding financial aid grants to students. However, students do not need to be only Pell recipients or students who are eligible for Pell grants. In addition, the federal law explicitly provides that financial aid grants to students may be provided to students exclusively enrolled in distance education.

The remaining funding distribution will be up to the college administration and Board of Directors on how to allocate its use to cover losses due to COVID. We are still waiting for clarification on how we can invest that money per United States Department of Education directions. Generally, it is expected higher education institutions have expanded flexibility in their use of supplemental and new institutional portion of the COVID relief funds.

Allowable uses under the COVID relief awards include:

∫ Defraying expenses associated with coronavirus (including lost revenue, reimbursement for expenses already incurred, technology costs associated with a transition to distance education, faculty and staff trainings, and payroll);

∫ Carrying out student support activities authorized by the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA) , as amended that address needs related to coronavirus; and

the Department interprets this provision to include, among other authorized activities, such as TRIO and Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) program activities to the extent that those activities address needs related to the coronavirus. For example, institutional funds may be used to support the transition to virtual activities, purchase PPE, or support other innovative learning methods that would allow an institution to engage in student support activities.

We hope this summary helps students, families and our taxpayers understand how Iowa Central hopes to maximize and cost-effectively manage its additional federal disaster relief funding.

We also want to stress the additional federal funding cannot be used to replace existing state or local financial funding that is needed to keep the college operating. Those local and state funding streams are needed now more than ever.

Jim Kersten the the vice president of external relations and government affairs at Iowa Central Community College.

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