Dear East Georgia State College Faculty and Staff:
During this COVID-19 pandemic, one of my commitments to you is to be open and transparent about new developments at the earliest time possible. This weekly letter summarizes recent developments, including the announcement about the Governor’s direction to all state agencies to submit budget reduction plans. It also summarizes key events of the coming week, including the distribution to our students of CARES Act emergency grants and the college’s virtual commencement on Friday. Click to go directly to each of the topics below:
- Statewide Budget Reduction
- CARES Act Funding – Institutional Portion
- CARES Act Funding – Student Portion
- Governor’s Executive Order 04/30/2020
- Virtual Commencement on May 08, 2020
All state agencies, including all USG institutions, have been directed to submit budget reduction plans. EGSC must submit its plan by May 09, 2020. The following is an excerpt from the Chancellor’s letter about this budget reduction.
Letter from the Chancellor May 01, 2020
“Your hard work has continued to keep all of our 26 institutions and the University System Office (USO) accessible and responsive in an extraordinary time, even as you have had to juggle your own personal challenges. I am grateful and proud of the way each of you has responded to our rapid shift in operations.
The challenges thrown at us by the COVID-19 pandemic are unprecedented. The health and safety of our students and employees are our greatest priorities.
As you are aware, the state of Georgia is facing a significant drop in revenue from the coronavirus that has caused the news I must now share.
Today, the state Office of Planning and Budget, House Budget and Research Office, and Senate Budget and Evaluation Office directed all state agencies to develop new spending proposals for fiscal year 2021, which begins July 1. In doing so, all agencies including USG must submit proposals that include a 14% reduction of their base budget.
I have instructed all institutions and the USO to prepare a plan to address these 14% reductions. These plans must be submitted to the state no later than May 20th.
This will not be easy work. We have asked everyone to be strategic in their approach to meeting this reduction, therefore across the board cuts are not permitted. Our priority continues to be helping our students complete a college education. Our mission is more critical than ever as we take a leading role in helping all Georgians recover.
Right now, institutions are only submitting plans to address the 14% reductions for FY21. It will be some time before we will know the specifics of these plans and how they will be implemented. Among actions that may be taken include furloughs and layoffs. Additionally, we are placing a hold on all vacant positions not deemed essential, and remain committed to a critical hire process for the few that are. We will be faced with some uncertainty until the FY21 budget is adopted and approved.
The state will continue to monitor the financial impact of COVID-19 and adjust as circumstances require. Any budget plans submitted to the state must also be finalized and approved by the Georgia Legislature, and signed by the Governor.
I know this is hard news to hear. Please keep in close contact with your supervisor for further guidance and if you have any questions. We will provide updates as quickly and as transparently as possible.
Above all, know you are making a difference at a critical time for the University System. There is no question this will be tough. But we will get through it, and be stronger. Thank you for all you do to support our students and the state of Georgia."
Detailed Guidance from the USG on 05/01/2020
In addition to the above letter from the Chancellor, the USG sent detailed guidance about the plan each USG institution must submit. This included clear instructions that the budget cuts must be “strategic.” Across the board cuts are not permitted.
CARES Act Funding – Institutional Portion
As discussed in my prior weekly letters, the federal CARES Act divides the funding for each institution under that federal stimulus bill into two equal portions. One portion is to for the institution. The other portion is for emergency grants for students. This section of my letter addresses the institutional portion. The student emergency grants are addressed in the section of this letter immediately following.
The U.S. Department of Education has announced that the CARES act funding for use by institutions is now available. These funds must be used by each institution for costs first incurred on or after March 13, 2020. Also, each institution must have “a reasoned basis for concluding such costs have a clear nexus to significant changes to the delivery of instruction due to the coronavirus.”
The following lists specific permitted uses and prohibited uses of these funds issued by U.S. Department of Education as outlined in a letter from the USG:
“Institutional Funds CAN be used for:
• Refunds to students for room and board, tuition, and other fees as a result of significant changes to the delivery of instruction, including refunds to students for housing, food, or other services that institutions could no longer provide. This includes allowing institutions to reimburse themselves for COVID-19 related refunds that were provided to students on or after March 13, 2020.
• Other costs that have a “clear nexus to significant changes to the delivery of instruction due to the coronavirus.”
• Costs to purchase equipment or software, pay for online licensing fees, or pay for internet service to enable students to transition to distance learning to include reimbursements to the institutions for hardware, software, or internet connectivity that institutions may have purchased on behalf of students or provided to students.
• Payment of a per-student fee to a third-party service provider, including an Online Program Management (OPM), for each additional student using a distance learning platform, learning management system, online resources, or other support services; however, institutions may not use funds to pay third-party recruiters or OPMs for recruiting or enrolling new students at the institution.
• Additional Student Grants using the same process and requirements as for the prior round of Student Grants.
Institutional Funds CANNOT be used for:
• Payment to contractors for the provision of pre-enrollment recruitment activities.
• Capital outlays associated with facilities related to athletics, sectarian instruction, or religious worship.
• Senior administrator and/or executive salaries, benefits, bonuses, contracts, incentives, cash, or other benefit.”
East Georgia State College is now in the process of preparing a plan for use of these funds to be submitted for approval to the USG.
CARES Act Funding – Student Portion
Today, a letter is being sent to EGSC students, faculty and staff about EGSC’s plan for distribution of the student portion of the CARES Act funds. That letter provides, in part:
“On April 9, 2020, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced the first wave of CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) funding to colleges and universities across the United States. The funding is available through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund authorized by the CARES Act and allocates funds to colleges and universities to provide emergency aid to college students whose lives and educations have been disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak.
Each college and university receiving these funds must prepare its own plan describing how these funds will be used to meet emergency needs of students, subject to US Department of Education guidelines.”
It is EGSC’s intention to begin distributing funds by Thursday, May 7, 2020.”
As widely reported in the news, the Governor of Georgia issued an executive order on May 01, 2020. That order ended the statewide shelter in place order. However, as summarized below in a letter from the USG on 05/01/2020, “little has changed: for USG institutions (including EGSC) as a result of that executive order:
“Today the Governor issued an Executive Order (an “EO”) impacting sheltering in place and the Public Health Emergency. I have summarized relevant provisions of the EO below ….
Pursuant to today’s EO the Public Health Emergency is extended for 30 days until June 12.
At midnight tonight the statewide shelter in place expires, except for the shelter in place provisions for higher risk populations previously provided in the Governor’s April 23 EO. Today’s EO extends those shelter in place provisions for higher risk populations until June 12.
While the statewide shelter in place expires at midnight, the Governor’s April 23 EO remains in effect, which still requires social distancing, limited gatherings, and limited business openings, among many other things. This April 23 EO that remains in effect continues to classify the USG as “Critical Infrastructure,” allowing us to continue remote instruction and limited social interaction related thereto. The April 23 EO is currently set to expire on May 13, but additional portions of it may be extended in the future.
In short, with the expiration of the statewide shelter in place provisions at midnight tonight - other than greater mobility allowed for our students, faculty and staff - little has changed for the USG, as we have been operating pursuant to the Critical Infrastructure and limited social interaction provisions of the April 23 EO and will continue to follow those provisions until it expires on May 13 or is extended.
Consistent with this approach, the Governor’s Chief of Staff today sent a memorandum to agency heads reinforcing strict social distancing for state offices and for agencies to continue to use all alternative means of delivering services, including telecommuting and alternative office hours, among other things. The memo stated that further guidance should be expected during the week of May 11. “
Virtual Commencement on May 08, 2020
The virtual Honors Night Ceremony held recently and the virtual 10th anniversary celebration for the Fulford Center were highly successful. Thanks for joining in those celebrations. I hope you will also join us this Friday evening for a virtual commencement ceremony. See http://www.ega.edu/articles/detail/egsc-to-host-virtual-spring-commencement-ceremony
I look forward to seeing all of you soon in person. In the meantime, please be healthy and be safe.
Thank you! You are the best.
Robert G. Boehmer
East Georgia State College