Harvard Defiant Hours Before Backing Down on Coronavirus Relief

Lawrence Bacow
Bill Sikes/AP

UPDATE: After defiantly stating this morning it would keep a federal Chinese virus relief grant against the wishes of President Donald Trump, Harvard backed down this afternoon, stating it would not accept the relief grant following the “intense focus” placed on the university by politicians.

According to a report by Reuters, Harvard University announced on Tuesday that it plans to keep its $8.6 million stimulus grant. Many colleges and universities around the country have received stimulus grants to help them weather financial burdens imposed by the Chinese virus pandemic.

“Harvard is going to pay back the money and they shouldn’t be taking it,” Trump said during a press conference on Tuesday. Trump pointed out that Harvard University currently has the largest endowment of any university in the country.

In a short statement, Harvard announced that they do not plan to pay back the funds that they have received as part of the CARES Act. Harvard said that they will “direct 100% of the funds to financial assistance to students, and will not be using any of the funds to cover institutional costs.”

During his press conference, President Trump argued that Harvard should pay back their stimulus grant immediately. “Harvard should give back the money now. Their whole ‘endowment’ system should be looked at,” President Trump finished.

Following Harvard’s defiant statement this morning, the university changed course this afternoon, announcing it would not accept the federal money.

According to Harvard, its decision is due to the “intense focus” of politicians, presumably including President Trump.

Breitbart News reported this week that Ivy League institutions such as Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania will receive millions in bailouts despite their billion-dollar endowment funds.

Harvard made the point that it did not receive the funds as part of the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told reporters on Tuesday that institutional stimulus checks recipients will be required to pay back the funds. Mnuchin warned that institutions that fail to pay back their grants will face consequences.

“The intent [of the program] was not for companies that have access to plenty of liquidity and other sources,” Mnuchin said. “To the extent these companies didn’t understand this and they repay the loans, that will be OK. And, if not, there will be potentially other consequences,” he said.

Update — This story was changed after publication to reflect the fact that Harvard reversed course and will not accept federal relief money.

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