California Community Colleges Files Federal Lawsuit Against Betsy DeVos over CARES Act Eligibility Requirements

Cheasanee Hetherington, Staff member

California Community Colleges filed a federal lawsuit against U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on May 11 claiming the eligibility requirements for student emergency grants as part of the Coronavirus relief package are “unlawful and unconstitutional.”

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump on March 27 set aside more than $14 billion for colleges and universities across the U.S. CCC has received $300 million in federal aid from the CARES Act.

But in a press release this week, CCC said DeVos’ policy restricting emergency grants “has arbitrarily excluded as many as 800,000 community college students.” Those impacted by the additional restrictions include veterans, citizens who have not filed for federal financial aid, and non-citizens such as DACA students.

“It is our hope that we stop the Department of Education from enforcing arbitrary restrictions,” said CCC Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley during a statewide teleconference on May 11.

CARES Act aid may amount to financial life-support for community college students as the pandemic continues. More than 36 million people nationwide have filed for unemployment since the COVID-19 outbreak.

CCC is now preparing for campus closures and social distancing to extend potentially into 2021.

“We are at this point telling our colleges to be prepared to continue to expand their online selection through the fall semester, and perhaps beyond,” said Oakley.

“We expect there to be a physical distancing protocol in place for the foreseeable future.”

CARES Act restrictions are keeping aid from some of California’s most vulnerable populations who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, reported the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In addition this week, due to the high demand for emergency financial aid, CCC is publicly encouraging students to participate in the 2020 census as a way to ensure that California is properly represented in Congress and receives appropriate federal funding throughout the pandemic.