State of Washington filing court challenge against Dept of Education over COVID-19 relief for students

The state of Washington is suing the U.S. Dept of Education in federal court over the way its distributing COVID-19 aid under the CARES act
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SPOKANE, Wash – A federal judge in Spokane will preside over a case in which the state of Washington alleges the U.S. Department of Education is denying COVID-19 aid to thousands of college students, including those with DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival) status.

Those students, known as Dreamers, are being left out of the federal CARES Act, according to Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

The state filed a lawsuit against U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos and also the U.S. Department of Education in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington in Spokane.

The CARES Act sets aside more than $12 billion to higher education institutions under its Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. It allows those institutions to set aside at least 50% of those funds for students as emergency grants.

According to the motion, the Department of Education announced on April 21st that the funds could only be used for students who are eligible for federal financial aid. The state says that excludes students without a high school degree, basic education students, students who have DACA status and more.

“Betsy Devos is unlawfully trying to deny Dreamers and other Washington students the assistance they need – and, that Congress intended,” Ferguson said in a statement released Tuesday.

“Congress intended this aid to be distributed to all students struggling to cope with the COVID-19 emergency, not just those Betsy Devos deems eligible for assistance,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “All higher education students in Washington state deserve to be part of our recovery.”

Ferguson’s lawsuit says this is a violation of the Administrative Protection Act and Article I of the U.S. Constitution.

The state also asked for an emergency injunction to block the restrictions on the funds.

According to the lawsuit, more than 85,000 Washington higher education students would be restricted from receiving this federal help. The suit says these are students who are most impacted by COVID-19 because many work part-time to pay for tuition, healthcare and childcare. Many have missed payments on federal loans.

It specifically includes 24,364 basic adult education students at Washington community and technical colleges; 28,451 high-school aged college students in Running Start programs; and many of Washington’s 17,000 “Dreamers.”

The file in federal court includes a summons for DeVos and a summons for the Dept. of Education, both issued Tuesday, with 21 days to respond.

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