American Rescue Plan showers Pioneer Valley colleges with millions

Staff Writer
Published: 5/13/2021 7:54:35 PM

HOLYOKE — Area colleges and universities in Hampshire County and Holyoke are in line to receive millions of dollars in emergency funding from the American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill signed into law in early March.

Holyoke Community College will receive $13.3 million in funding, while Mount Holyoke was allocated $3.9 million to address the financial impacts of COVID-19 on students and institutions. U.S. Rep. Richard Neal announced the funding as part of a total of almost $90 million in assistance to 13 western Massachusetts colleges and universities in the 1st Congressional District on Monday.

In the 2nd Congressional District, the University of Massachusetts Amherst was awarded $50.2 million; Smith College $5,546,929; Amherst College $4,038,959; and Hampshire College $3,127,390, according to U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern’s office. The district received $149 million for colleges and universities in total.

“Educational institutions here in western and central Massachusetts and across the country have been steadfast in their mission of delivering quality education in the face of this pandemic,” Neal said in a statement. “The American Rescue Plan makes a historic investment that will secure the future of these valued institutions and provide struggling students with urgent relief that will allow them to stay on track and complete their education.”

McGovern also welcomed the relief for colleges and universities.

“The success of our local colleges and universities is critical to the success of our students and to the strength of this community,” McGovern said in a statement.

Guidelines dictate how colleges can use the money, which must be put toward pandemic-related issues, such as helping students with expenses related to transportation, food, bills and safety.

Of the $13.3 million awarded to HCC, $6.8 million must go directly to student aid, while the remaining funding goes towards institutional support, according to Narayan Sampath, vice president of administration and finance at HCC.

“It’s very timely funding that we’ve received,” Sampath said, adding that the college will “get (funding) out to students — we just need to cross our t’s and dot our i’s in terms of what’s allowed and what’s not allowed.”

The college has used previous stimulus funding to provide all students enrolled with this past year with $550 block grants and forgive debt that students owed to the college for the past two semesters. Sampath expects that funding may be used in a similar manner with this allocation, though college officials are still in the planning process.

The institutional portion of the funding can be used toward resources such as personal protective equipment, disinfectants and remote learning technology, Sampath said, and can also be put toward student support.

In a statement, HCC President Christina Royal said she is “excited that there is recognition of the important role that community colleges play in economic recovery and workforce development, and that investments in greater access to community colleges helps our communities, families, and businesses thrive.”

Other colleges and universities receiving aid in the region include Mount Holyoke College ($3.9 million), Springfield Technical Community College ($14.2 million), Westfield State University ($12,788,564) and Western New England University and Springfield College, which are receiving nearly $8 and $9 million, respectively.

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