COVID-19 National Emergency Extended: What That Means for Financial Aid Offices

By Luke Hoey, FAAC® | March 2, 2022

Less than two weeks before it was set to end, the COVID-19 national emergency was extended by President Joe Biden. Citing ongoing public health and safety risks presented by the pandemic, the declaration published in the Federal Register on February 18, 2022, continues the emergency beyond its March 1, 2022, expiration.

As a result of the extension, many of the Title IV flexibilities and waivers created by the emergency remain in place for at least the next year or until the emergency is rescinded. For financial aid departments, these are some of the key points to keep in mind:

  • Return of Title IV funds (R2T4) waiver: The Department of Education (ED) has waived the requirement for institutions to return Title IV funds because of student withdrawals caused by pandemic-related circumstances. As a reminder, an institution has to have a written attestation (email or text) that the withdrawal was due to COVID-19 unless a disruption occurs in the payment period.
  • Verification flexibilities: Institutions are permitted to waive the requirement for a parental signature, in the event it cannot be obtained, or accept a signed and photographed document which is sent by email or text message. This is allowable for any verification document required for a student’s Title IV eligibility.
  • Federal Work Study (FWS) & Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG): Institutions can transfer up to 100% of their unexpended FWS allocations to FSEOG, and can also disburse FSEOG emergency grants where normal FSEOG awarding rules are waived.
  • Credit balances for schools on HCM1: Cash management requirements have been modified to allow institutions on Heightened Cash Monitoring (HCM1) to submit a request for funds without first paying credit balances.

ED’s complete chart of Title IV flexibilities and waivers, along with applicable timeframes, can be found here.

For more COVID-19-related relief, ED recently reopened the application period for Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF III), with the deadline quickly approaching on March 7. Additionally, institutions have until April 7 to apply for grants from the Supplemental Support under the American Rescue Plan (SSARP) program. Learn more here.

To learn more about what the national emergency extension means for your institution or for answers to related questions, audit guidance and more, schedule a time to chat with our staff today.

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