What Does "To the Greatest Extent Possible" Mean Under the CARES Act?

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This AskRegs Knowledgebase Q&A was updated on January 21, 2021 to reflect requirements under the 2021 Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021). The same rules apply to both Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) grants under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) (HEERF I funds) and to new funds under the CRRSAA (HEERF II funds).

In order to receive student or institutional Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF I and II) grants under Section 18006 of the CARES Act and under Section 315 of the CRRSAA, "[The institution] shall to the greatest extent practicable, continue to pay its employees and contractors during the period of any disruptions or closures related to coronavirus."

NASFAA's interpretation is that the language, "to the greatest extent practicable," is an acknowledgement by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) that it is unreasonable to expect an institution to continue to pay all employees/contractors during a national crisis. If an institution is making a good faith effort to pay employees to the extent possible, and can document accordingly, the institution should not be concerned about this provision. Note that neither the CARES Act nor the CRRSAA exclude Federal Work-Study (FWS) or non-FWS student employees from this requirement.

NASFAA cannot say whether the institution will be at risk of losing funds if employees are furloughed or laid off. This is a question for your ED School Participation Division. Beyond this, you will need to consult your school's legal counsel. NASFAA is unable to provide further guidance on this topic.

Reporting: The Recipient’s Funding Certification and Agreement (HEERF I funds) states that schools, as part of the reporting requirement, will have to document and report that they have continued to pay all employees/contractors to the greatest extent practicable, explaining in detail all specific actions and decisions related thereto. Reporting requirements for HEERF II funds were not established as of this updated publication.

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AskRegs Q&As represent NASFAA's understanding of regulatory and compliance issues. They are FOR INTERNAL USE ONLY. While NASFAA believes AskRegs Q&As are accurate and factual, they have not been reviewed or approved by the U.S. Department of Education (ED). If you should need written confirmation of AskRegs information for audit or program review purposes, please contact your ED School Participation Division. NASFAA shall not be liable for technical or editorial errors or omissions contained herein; nor for incidental or consequential damages resulting from the furnishing, performance, or use of this material.