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OPE: Office of Postsecondary Education
Current Section
CARES Act: Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund

Updated statement 5/21/2020:The Department has stated on its guidance portal that “guidance documents lack the force and effect of law.” See U.S. Department of Education’s Guidance Homepage,  https://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/types-of-guidance-documents.html (“Guidance documents represent the ED’s current thinking on a topic. They do not create or confer any rights for or on any person and do not impose any requirements beyond those required under applicable law and regulations. Guidance documents lack the force and effect of law.”); compare, e.g., OPE Guidance Documents, https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ope/guidance.html (“Guidance documents lack the force and effect of law.”). On February 26, 2020, the Department published a Federal Register notice stating this principle along with an announcement of the existence and location of its guidance portal. Notice of Guidance Portal, 85 Fed. Reg. 11056, https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2020-02-26/pdf/2020-03811.pdf. The statement applies to all of the Department’s guidance except as authorized by law or as incorporated into a contract.

This includes, for example, the statements in response to question 5 of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund Institutional Frequently Asked Question document located here and question 9 of the HEERF Student FAQ document located here explaining that only students who are or could be eligible to participate in programs under Section 484 in Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, may receive emergency financial aid grants. HEERF Institutional FAQs at 2, HEERF Student FAQs at 4. The Department will not initiate any enforcement action based solely on these statements because they lack the force and effect of law. In contrast, the underlying statutory terms in the CARES Act are legally binding, as are any other applicable statutory terms, such as the restriction in 8 U.S.C. § 1611 on eligibility for Federal public benefits including such grants.

In addition, the Department reiterates its guidance that emergency financial aid grants under Section 18004(c) of the CARES Act may only be given to those who are or could be eligible to participate in programs under Section 484 in Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (HEA), but emphasizes that that guidance is specific to the distribution of emergency financial aid grants and does not apply to the use of HEERF institutional allocations to cover any costs associated with significant changes to the delivery of instruction due to the coronavirus. The Department continues to consider the issue of eligibility for HEERF emergency financial aid grants under the CARES Act and intends to take further action shortly.

Please refer to the posted instructions below on navigating the grants.gov website and uploading Certificates of Agreement, and please refer to the Secretary’s letter below for guidance regarding distribution and usage of these funds. 

| Student Aid | Institutional Portion | Historically Black Colleges and Universities |
| American Indian Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities | *Minority Serving Institutions |
|*Strengthening Institutions Program | Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education |

*Minority Serving Institutions include institutions that would be eligible to participate in the following programs: Predominantly Black Institutions, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian-Serving Institutions, Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions, Native American-Serving Nontribal Institutions, Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program, and Promoting Postbaccalaureate Opportunities for Hispanic Americans.

*Strengthening Institutions include institutions that are not participating in the other MSI programs but have at least 50 percent of their degree students receiving need-based assistance under Title IV of the Higher Education Act or have a substantial number of enrolled students receiving Pell Grants, and have low educational and general expenditures.

Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund - Student Aid

Information for Students 

The CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund-IHE/Student Aid provides funding to institutions to provide emergency financial aid grants to students whose lives have been disrupted, many of whom are facing financial challenges and struggling to make ends meet. Students cannot apply for assistance directly from the U.S. Department of Education but should contact their institutions for further information and guidance. Institutions have the responsibility of determining how grants will be distributed to students, how the amount of each student grant is calculated, and the development of any instructions or directions that are provided to students about the grant.

The funding opportunity number is ED-GRANTS-041020-003. If you have questions concerning this program, please submit them via e-mail to HEERF@ed.gov., or by phone, at 202-377-3711.

Guidance on How to Apply for Funding-HEERF- Student Aid

  • Grants.gov Submission Procedures and Tips for Applicants: PDF (169K)
  • A Guide for how to apply for funding in GRANTS.gov: PDF (170K)
    • Visual aid: PDF (1.2M)
    • How to upload a Workspace PDF (101K)

Letter from the Secretary

CARES Act grant funding cover letter: PDF (138K)

A Certificate of Agreement

CARES HEERF Certification and Agreement: PDF (828K)

Formula allocations

Allocations for Section 18004(a)(1) of CARES Act: PDF (1.28M)

Methodology for Calculating Allocations: PDF (138K)

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions about the Emergency Financial Aid Grants to Students under Section 18004(a)(1) and 18004(c) of the CARES Act PDF (189K) (and please see the updated statement referencing this document at the top of this page)

Internal Revenue Service FAQs regarding Grants under the CARES Act

Student Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions about the Emergency Financial Aid Grants to Students PDF (106K)

Reporting and Data Collection

Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund Reporting- Emergency Financial Aid Grants to Students

Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund-Institutional Portion

You must complete and submit the CARES HEERF Certification and Agreement Student’s Portion before submitting the CARES HEERF Certification and Agreement for the Institution’s Allocation of HEER Funds.

The funding opportunity number is ED-GRANTS-042120-004. If you have questions concerning this program, please submit them via e-mail to HEERF@ed.gov., or by phone, at 202-377-3711.

Guidance on How to Apply for Funding-HEERF-IHEs-Institutional Portion

  • Grants.gov Submission Procedures and Tips for Applicants: PDF (169K)
  • A Guide for how to apply for funding in GRANTS.gov: PDF (158K)
    • Visual aid: PDF (1.2M)
    • How to upload a Workspace PDF (101K)

Letter from the Secretary

CARES Act grant funding cover letter: PDF (156K)

A Certificate of Agreement

CARES HEERF Certification and Agreement: PDF (891K)

Formula allocations

Allocations for Section 18004(a)(1) of CARES Act: PDF (2.01M)

Methodology for Calculating Allocations: PDF (138K)

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions about the Institutional Portion of the HEERF under Section 18004(a)(1) and 18004(c) of the CARES Act PDF (202K) (and please see the updated statement referencing this document at the top of this page)

Internal Revenue Service FAQs regarding Grants under the CARES Act

Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund-Historically Black Colleges and Universities 

The funding opportunity number is ED-GRANTS-043020-001. If you have questions concerning this program, please submit them via e-mail to HEERF@ed.gov., or by phone, at 202-377-3711.

Guidance on How to Apply for Funding-HEER - Historically Black Colleges and Universities

  • Grants.gov Submission Procedures and Tips for Applicants: PDF (169K)
  • A Guide for how to apply for funding in GRANTS.gov: PDF (175K)
    • Visual aid: PDF (1.2M)
    • How to upload a Workspace PDF (101K)

Letter from the Secretary

CARES Act grant funding cover letter: PDF (147K)

A Certificate of Agreement

CARES HEERF Certification and Agreement: PDF (191K)

Formula allocations

Allocations for Section 18004(a)(2) of CARES Act: EXCEL (188K)

Methodology for Calculating Allocations: PDF (167K)

Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund-Tribally Control Colleges and Universities

The funding opportunity number is ED-GRANTS-043020-002. If you have questions concerning this program, please submit them via e-mail to HEERF@ed.gov., or by phone, at 202-377-3711.

Guidance on How to Apply for Funding-HEERF-Tribally Control Colleges and Universities

  • Grants.gov Submission Procedures and Tips for Applicants: PDF (169K)
  • A Guide for how to apply for funding in GRANTS.gov: PDF (175K)
    • Visual aid: PDF (1.2M)
    • How to upload a Workspace PDF (101K)

Letter from the Secretary

CARES Act grant funding cover letter: PDF (147K)

A Certificate of Agreement

CARES HEERF Certification and Agreement: PDF (191K)

Formula allocations

Allocations for Section 18004(a)(2) of CARES Act: EXCEL (188K)

Methodology for Calculating Allocations: PDF (167K)

Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund-Minority Serving Institutions

The funding opportunity number is ED-GRANTS-043020-003. If you have questions concerning this program, please submit them via e-mail to HEERF@ed.gov., or by phone, at 202-377-3711.

Guidance on How to Apply for Funding-HEERF-Minority Serving Institutions

  • Grants.gov Submission Procedures and Tips for Applicants: PDF (169K)
  • A Guide for how to apply for funding in GRANTS.gov: PDF (174K)
    • Visual aid: PDF (1.2M)
    • How to upload a Workspace PDF (101K)

Letter from the Secretary

CARES Act grant funding cover letter: PDF (147K)

A Certificate of Agreement

CARES HEERF Certification and Agreement: PDF (191K)

Formula allocations

Allocations for Section 18004(a)(2) of CARES Act: EXCEL (188K)

Methodology for Calculating Allocations: PDF (167K)

Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund-Strengthening Institutions Program

The funding opportunity number is ED-GRANTS-043020-004. If you have questions concerning this program, please submit them via e-mail to HEERF@ed.gov., or by phone, at 202-377-3711.

Guidance on How to Apply for Funding-HEERF-Strengthening Institutions Program

  • Grants.gov Submission Procedures and Tips for Applicants: PDF (169K)
  • A Guide for how to apply for funding in GRANTS.gov: PDF (174K)
    • Visual aid: PDF (1.2M)
    • How to upload a Workspace PDF (101K)

Letter from the Secretary

CARES Act grant funding cover letter: PDF (147K)

A Certificate of Agreement

CARES HEERF Certification and Agreement: PDF (191K)

Formula allocations

Allocations for Section 18004(a)(2) of CARES Act: EXCEL (188K)

Methodology for Calculating Allocations: PDF (167K)

Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund-FIPSE

The funding opportunity number is ED-GRANTS-043020-005. If you have questions concerning this program, please submit them via e-mail to HEERF@ed.gov., or by phone, at 202-377-3711.

Guidance on How to Apply for Funding-HEERF-FIPSE

  • Grants.gov Submission Procedures and Tips for Applicants: PDF (169K)
  • A Guide for how to apply for funding in GRANTS.gov: PDF (174K)
    • Visual aid: PDF (1.2M)
    • How to upload a Workspace PDF (101K)

Letter from the Secretary

CARES Act grant funding cover letter: PDF (147K)

A Certificate of Agreement

CARES HEERF Certification and Agreement: PDF (192K)

Formula allocations

Revisions are being made in the formula allocation table and methodology for this program.

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Last Modified: 05/22/2020