Central Michigan University received more than $ 75 million in federal COVID aid in three payouts. A large part of this has already been spent and a large part of it was earmarked for direct student funding.
The three tranches, known as the Emergency Fund for Higher Education, totaled $ 14.3 million under the Coronavirus Aid, Recreation and Economic Security Act last March; $ 22.6 million through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act in December; and $ 39.8 million through the American Recovery Plan Act earlier this year, said Nick Long, vice president of finance and administrative services for CMU.
Unlike money that went to city governments, the money was not sent directly to the university’s general fund. To get the money, the university had to spend it and show it met federal criteria before receiving it from the U.S. Department of Education.
Under the CARES Act and ARPA, half of the money went to direct student funding. One third of the CRRSSA’s money went to college students. This money should help smooth out the “speedbump” the pandemic caused in the pursuit of deals.
Some of that money went towards things like reimbursing meal plans for students who could no longer use them or dorm rooms they no longer lived in.
The rest of the money should go towards covering some of the costs associated with moving the CMU to its pandemic basis. Basic safety aspects such as hand disinfection stations, plexiglass barriers and signage were covered. So is the technology that helped professors solve problems related to moving their courses online, Long said.
The CMU also used the money to fund COVID testing programs as well as vaccination clinics. These clinics could be the model for future flu clinics on campus.
Still, the university spent more money on responding to COVID-19 than it received on federal aid, he said.
Some of this money went to the general fund of the CMU as lost income. The university saw a noticeable drop in its tuition and room and board income, which it could directly attribute to COVID-19, and lost money to grocery sales in the basement of the Bovee University Center and side sales of clothing and other items in the university bookstore.
The CMU gave what Long described as “conservative” estimate of the university’s lost revenue.
The process was a bit different from what the local governments saw. Local government entities that qualify as eligible entities have already received their first half of ARPA money, while entities that must use the state as a pass-through financer are just receiving their first payouts.
The CMU received and spent most of its money. Local governments have until 2024 to prepare a spending plan and must have it out by the end of 2026.
The university held back on the grounds that the pandemic was not over yet. Long said they would be closely monitoring the delta variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in case the university had to respond to rising case numbers.
The Delta variant is reported to be more contagious than previous variants and the numbers of cases are increasing again, with the vast majority of them affecting people who have not received the COVID-19 vaccination.