Harvard responds to Trump: Taxpayer funds will aid students affected by coronavirus

Harvard University on Tuesday pushed back against President Trump’s call for the institution to return funds it received from the $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package, saying the money it accepted would go toward assisting students financially impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.

The university emphasized in a statement that it received the money from a $14 billion fund established under the CARES Act, called the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, and not a separate program designed to help small businesses retain employees amid the pandemic.

“Harvard did not apply for, nor has it received any funds through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses,” Harvard spokesman Jonathan Swain said in a statement obtained by The Hill. “Reports saying otherwise are inaccurate.”

“President Trump is right that it would not have been appropriate for our institution to receive funds that were designated for struggling small businesses,” Swain continued.

“Like most colleges and universities, Harvard has been allocated funds as part of the CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. Harvard has committed that 100% of these emergency higher education funds will be used to provide direct assistance to students facing urgent financial needs due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the spokesman said.

“This financial assistance will be on top of the support the University has already provided to students — including assistance with travel, providing direct aid for living expenses to those with need, and supporting students’ transition to online education.”

Speaking at a White House briefing earlier Tuesday, Trump repeatedly targeted Harvard and said that he would soon ask that the university and other large businesses return any of the funds they received through the recent stimulus package.

The president cited Harvard’s $40 billion endowment, saying that it didn’t make sense for the institution to also be a beneficiary of financial relief.

The Department of Education announced last week that Harvard was set to get about $9 million from the higher education fund.

“I’m not going to mention any other names, but when I saw Harvard — they have one of the largest endowments anywhere in the country, maybe in the world. They’re going to pay back the money,” Trump said Tuesday.

Trump’s comments targeting Harvard come amid heightened scrutiny over large entities that received money from the small-business loan program under the $2.2 trillion relief package signed into law last month. Shake Shack, a major burger chain, announced on Monday that it would return $10 million it received through the program.

To avoid some of the issues from the first phase of the Paycheck Protection Program, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the administration would be issuing guidance to help businesses understand whether they qualify.

The program is aimed at helping businesses and American workers impacted by the spread of the coronavirus. The package signed last month included a $350 billion fund for small businesses, which ran out of money last week.

The Senate passed a bill Tuesday to provide another $310 billion for the small-business loan program, along with funding for hospitals, testing and emergency disasters loans and grants.

Morgan Chalfant contributed.

Tags coronavirus relief Donald Trump Paycheck Protection Program Steven Mnuchin
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