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NIACC awaits guidance on use of $2.6 million of CRRSAA funds
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NIACC awaits guidance on use of $2.6 million of CRRSAA funds

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The number was $2.6 million.

That’s how much money North Iowa Area Community College received from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA) in January.

The act, signed into law by former President Donald Trump on Dec. 27, 2020, was meant to provide more financial relief to support higher education during the COVID-19 pandemic.

NIACC campus

A sign urges visitors to mask up before entering NIACC's campus.

But according to NIACC Chief Financial Officer Noele Beaver, the college hasn’t touched the money since it received the funding. Not unlike other community colleges around the country, NIACC is waiting for additional guidance from the United States Department of Education.

“Once I get that guidance, I will gladly and hopefully be able to spend it,” Beaver said. “But I have not spent a single dime of that money yet and we’ve had it since January.”

When the college received funding from the original Coronavirus Aid, Recovery and Economic Security (CARES) act, the language was such that colleges knew exactly where that money needed to go. Due to differing language in the CRRSAA act, however, it’s harder for colleges to figure out what to use the funds for.

The CRRSAA act states institutions are to use the funds for defraying expenses associated with the coronavirus.

“Including lost revenue, reimbursement for expenses already incurred, technology costs associated with a transition to distance education, faculty and staff trainings and payroll,” states a frequently asked questions answer sheet provided by the U.S. Department of Education.

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NIACC return to learn 2

Plexiglas dividers can be seen on tables in the cafeteria area of the Activity Center on NIACC's campus. 

The two main clarifications Beaver is hoping for revolve around lost revenue and payroll. NIACC has kept all of its employees during the pandemic, so she is uncertain about how the college should allocate funds towards payroll.

Also, Beaver and other institutions' CFOs need guidance clarifying what lost revenue is. Whether or not things like declining enrollment count towards lost revenue is a significant topic.

“The CARES act, there was no mention of putting any of those funds towards lost revenue,” Beaver said. “The CARES act was specifically on expenditures you have incurred due to the coronavirus. The lost revenue is completely different.”

Similar to the original CARES act, the college received funding specifically designated for students. Over $600,000 of the original $2.6 million will be awarded to students through financial aid based on need.

However, the college won’t know what to do with the rest of the nearly $2 million provided in January until President Joe Biden appoints a new secretary of education, who will be able to provide more clarity for institutions nationwide.

NIACC Campus 2

The Mason City NIACC campus on Friday afternoon.

NIACC is expecting the U.S. Department of Education to put out another frequently asked questions answer sheet by the end of the month with more guidance.

Gunnar Davis covers education and sports. Reach him via email at Gunnar.Davis@GlobeGazette.com or by phone 641-421-0598.

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