Trump Demands Harvard Return CCP Virus Relief Money

April 22, 2020 Updated: April 22, 2020

President Donald Trump on April 21 accused Harvard University of “taking” funds from the federal government’s CCP virus relief package, and requested that the institution return the money.

The president said the Ivy League college, which is rated the wealthiest university in the world, took stimulus money intended to benefit small businesses under the CARES Act’s Paycheck Protection Program, and demanded it pay back nearly $9 million.

“I want Harvard to pay that money back, OK? If they won’t do that, we won’t do something else,” Trump said during Tuesday’s White House CCP virus briefing. “They shouldn’t be taking it.”

The White House has faced mounting scrutiny in recent days as the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)—which was passed last month as part of the third stimulus package—ran out of money, meaning no new loans could be issued until it was replenished.

“They have to pay it back, I don’t like it,” Trump continued. “This is meant for workers, this isn’t meant for one of the richest institutions, not only, far beyond schools in the world. They got to pay it back.”

“I’m not going to mention any other names, but when I saw Harvard—they have one of the largest endowments anywhere in the country, maybe in the world. They’re going to pay back the money,” he added.

Harvard University, which has an endowment fund valued at $40 billion, pushed back against the claims and said the federal funds it received are part of a separate fund intended for academic institutions under the CARES Act, which reserved $12.5 billion in federal aid to some 5,000 universities and colleges.

The institution said in a statement that the $8.6 million it received would be used solely to help students facing “urgent financial needs” because of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic. It did not state whether it would be returning the funds.

“Like most colleges and universities, Harvard has been allocated funds as part of the CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund,” Harvard University said.

“Harvard has committed that 100 percent of these emergency higher education funds will be used to provide direct assistance to students facing urgent financial needs due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the college said on Twitter.

“President Trump is right that it would not have been appropriate for our institution to receive funds that were designated for struggling small businesses,” it said. “This financial assistance will be on top of the support the university has already provided to students—including assistance with travel, providing direct aid for living expenses to those with need, and supporting students’ transition to online education,” it added.

Yale University, which which has an endowment fund valued at $30 billion, is receiving $6.9 million in federal aid from the stimulus bill’s Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, while Princeton, which has an endowment fund valued at $26 billion, will receive $2.4 million.

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday passed a bill for a new round of CCP virus aid, sending it to the House for a vote this week. The legislation in this round of stimulus funding approves $482 billion in aid, including for small businesses, hospitals, and to increase CCP virus testing, including an additional $310 billion for the PPP program.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that more than a million small businesses with less than 10 employees each received loans through PPP.

Companies and nonprofits that have fewer than 500 workers can apply for PPP loans up to $10 million to cover two months of payroll along with other expenses. Under the deal, borrowers that retain workers and don’t cut wages will have most or all of their loans forgiven by the government.

The Treasury Department said (pdf) last week that 1.6 million PPP loans had been approved.

Trump noted that Mnuchin will immediately begin working on the next phase of the stimulus package. The government’s response to the economic toll of the shutdowns triggered by the CCP virus already amount to the largest stimulus action in U.S. history.

Jack Phillips contributed to this report.