The Department of Education has accidentally disbursed $ 73 million in epidemic emergency funds through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund to 24 colleges through August 2021, according to a new report from the department’s Office of the Inspector General.
Federal stimulus funds helped keep colleges afloat during the epidemic and increase state budgets for higher education. Duplicate funds were due to processing errors from the Office of the Department of Post-Secondary Education, which accidentally resulted in the processing of applications from colleges applying for the same HEERF program twice or the same application being processed twice. The department says the colleges did nothing wrong.
In total, duplicate funds account for 0.1 percent of the $ 76 billion allocated by the federal government to emergency COVID-19 funds in colleges and universities. However, the Department of Education’s oversight has suggested more policies and procedures to prevent duplicate rewards.
Who was given duplicate funds?
The report does not name specific colleges that received duplicate funds; However, it does note the causes of the process error. Of the 24 colleges that received similar funding, 15 submitted two applications for the same HEERF program, and the remaining nine colleges were processed twice by an application department.
Only eight colleges have drawn fake funds allocated for them. In order to correct the misappropriation of funds, the department has either reduced the college grant award by an equal amount, allowed the college to use the same award under a different subcategory of HEERF (e.g. it has been used to help students instead of institutional aid), or has been reduced. . The amount of the school’s American Rescue Plan prize by duplicate prize.
Duplicate rewards take an average of four to 16 months to be recognized and corrected, depending on the subcategory of the duplicate prize. The OIG report states that the Post Secondary Education Office did not show evidence of registration of duplicate awards and did so after the OIG brought the duplicate awards to their attention.
Work to prevent duplicate rewards in the future
In response to the report, the Post Secondary Education Office agreed to quickly and accurately establish procedures for processing applications and rewards for HEERF and future emergency programs.
The Post Secondary Education Office responded to the report’s findings in a letter to the Inspector General. In the letter, Michelle Asha Cooper, acting assistant secretary of post-secondary education, said: “While we are trying to help IHE meet its urgent needs due to the epidemic, we seriously consider our obligation to ensure the integrity of the program. We have made continuous administrative improvements to programs to meet urgent needs with proper accountability. “
He continued, “Importantly, we note that within the identified dual obligations, the department was aware of all except one and fully resolved or was in the process of resolving similar rewards. It is also important to note that no HEERF grant funds were ultimately misappropriated. Quickly worked to resolve all identified instances that had not been corrected before and that the recovered funds were needed without any loss to the taxpayer. “