FAMU Welcomes Debt Relief, Dailey Calls On Congress To Extend Aid: “Much More Needed”

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Tallahassee officials are celebrating a debt cancellation program included in a massive congressional spending bill that offers $ 111 million in aid to Florida A&M University. But Mayor John Dailey is calling on Congress for more help navigating the coronavirus pandemic.

FAMU was one of many HBCUs that received total funding of $ 1.34 billion through the HBCU Capital Finance Loan. Locally, this translated to $ 56 million in construction finance and $ 55 million in refinanced housing bonds.

“This is a game-changer for HBCUs. This is an unprecedented gift for FAMU and it comes during a very difficult year, ”said FAMU President Larry Robinson in a statement. “We are extremely grateful to our supporters in Washington for developing this stimulus legislation.”

In 2019, FAMU borrowed $ 126 million from the HBCU Capital Finance program to build new dormitories and refinance the debt of its residences.

The legislation, the Omnibus Appropriations and Emergency Coronavirus Relief Act, also brings the biggest expansion in a decade to the Pell Grants program and restores the eligibility of incarcerated people. It also simplifies the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

US Congressman Al Lawson D-Tallahassee said debt relief is an opportunity for HBCUs across the country to make a fresh start.

“I am proud to have worked with my colleagues in the House and Senate to eliminate federal debt, not only to FAMU, but to all HBCUs that have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic,” Lawson said in a statement. “As COVID-19 has severely affected the higher education community, especially low-resource HBCUs, we felt that canceling their debt would give them a fresh start and allow them to focus more resources on education. student education. “

Hours before Congress passed the $ 900 billion spending bill, Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey urged the city’s Congressional delegation to approve a federal COVID-19 relief component that would provide $ 600 in checks to many Americans.

“This help is welcome and needed, but much more is needed,” Dailey wrote. “A one-time relief check of $ 600 / per person only scratches the surface of the need. “

President Donald Trump agreed on Tuesday and called the relief plan a “disgrace” and called for direct relief of at least $ 2,000.

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The relief plan is also light on direct aid to local governments, which have been hammered by revenue losses due to the pandemic.

Dailey cited the 12,000 overdue utility customers on their bills, noted that local governments spent about $ 10 million on direct relief and the city suffered a $ 20 million shortfall.

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He noted that cities and counties with less than 500,000 inhabitants had not received any federal relief. Only 36 municipalities received direct aid, he said.

“Cities and counties have proactively and creatively responded to the needs of our communities, but it’s unclear how long we will be able to maintain this posture without additional relief,” Dailey wrote. “Simply put, I call on Congress to pass a relief bill equal to needs. Anything less will delay our national recovery and unnecessarily prolong the suffering. “

Contact Karl Etters at [email protected] or @KarlEtters on Twitter.

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