March 2020 Federal News of Note
Congress Strikes Deal on Coronavirus Relief Legislation that includes Aid to Education, Enhanced Charitable Giving Incentives
Congressional leaders have reached an agreement on the $2 trillion plus Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Approved by the Senate on March 25, the bill is expected to be considered and approved in the House by the end of the week and signed by President Trump soon afterward.
The final bill includes aid for educational institutions and enhanced charitable giving incentives, including:
- Aid to Education – The plan provides roughly $14 billion in direct aid to higher education institutions, half of which must be used to provide direct emergency aid to students. The higher education community asked for $50 billion in direct relief and $8 billion for technology implementation to fund distance learning.
- Temporary Universal Charitable Deduction – A temporary, above-the-line deduction will allow non-itemizing taxpayers to deduct charitable gifts of cash up to $300 in 2020. Under current law, only taxpayers who itemize can deduct charitable gifts.
- Temporary Suspension of AGI Limitations – A temporary suspension lifts the Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) limitations on cash gifts for 2020, allowing individuals to deduct up to 100% of their AGI in cash gifts.
- Suspension of Student Loan Payments - Suspends student borrowers’ obligation to make payments on their federal Direct Loans through September 2020, suspends interest on the payments, and counts the suspended payments towards payment requirements for forgiveness provisions such as the Public Service Student Loan Forgiveness Program.
- Loan Program – 501(c)3 organizations would be eligible to apply for loans from a $349 billion small business loan fund through December 31, 2020.
On the charitable giving incentives, CASE worked with the office of Senator James Lankford (R-OK) to boost the proposal’s $300 cap on the temporary universal charitable deduction. Sen. Lankford introduced a bipartisan amendment to increase the cap to $4,000 for individuals, $8,000 for couples. Sens. Coons (D-DE), Klobuchar (D-MN), Lee (R-UT), Scott (R-SC), and Shaheen (D-NH) joined Sen. Lankford in introducing the amendment. CASE joined the Charitable Giving Coalition to voice support for the Lankford amendment. In addition, CASE joined an American Council on Education in a letter supporting the amendment.
Consideration of the CARES Act follows enactment of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201), which provided emergency paid sick leave, emergency paid family and medical leave, and tax credits for paid sick, family, and medical leave. Increased federal funding for unemployment insurance, Medicaid, food and nutrition assistance, and free coronavirus testing were also included in H.R. 6201. View the CASE summary on H.R. 6201.
While we work with our education and charitable sector partners to make the case for additional relief for educational institutions in coronavirus legislation, subscribe to the CASE Advocacy Network and visit our U.S. COVID-19 Response Legislation for the latest developments.
For additional information and updates on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on education globally, check out CASE’s COVID-19 Resources and Best Practices page.
CASE Asks U.S. Department of Education to Make Changes to Foreign Gift Information Collection Request (ICR)
On March 11, CASE submitted comments to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the U.S. Department of Education (Department) on the Department’s information collection request (ICR) for disclosure of foreign gifts and contracts. In the comments, CASE President and CEO Sue Cunningham urged the Department and OMB to make the following changes to the proposed form:
- Ask institutions to only report information that is required by statute and eliminate the requirement to provide donor name and address information in the disclosure report, and
- Adhere to the definition of institution as outlined clearly in the statute in determining entities required to file disclosure reports.
Section 117 requires higher education institutions to file a disclosure report with the department if they receive gifts from or enter into a contract with a foreign source the value of which is $250,000 or more. This requirement applies to gifts considered alone or in combination with all other gifts from or contracts with that foreign source within a calendar year.
The March comments follow previous comments filed by CASE in November and December 2019 raising similar concerns and reiterating that any federal reporting or other requirements do not discourage reputable philanthropists from making legitimate charitable gifts to U.S. educational institutions. In response to previous comments submitted by CASE and others, the Department and OMB did agree to remove the requirement that institutions provide true copies of gift agreements from the ICR, though the Department may seek to institute this requirement through a separate rulemaking process in the future.
In addition to submitting comments, CASE joined the American Council on Education on a March 24 letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos asking the Department to suspend regulatory efforts related to Section 117 and Title IX until the COVID-19 situation is resolved and institutions have returned to normal operations.
As new developments arise, visit CASE’s foreign gift reporting webpage for more background on Section 117, the foreign gift disclosure requirement, and other resources.