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Public Universities Across Illinois Seek Additional Coronavirus Relief Funding From Congress

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Illinois' public universities are asking Congress for additional financial relief amid the COVID-19 pandemic, citing an economic impact of more than $21 billion.

The presidents of every public university in Illinois sent a letter to the state's congressional delegation, urging them to grant the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities' request for $47 billion in emergency funding for universities and college students nationwide.

All 12 public universities in Illinois have switched to remote learning due to the coronavirus outbreak. Before the governor issued a "stay at home" order last month, the schools encouraged students who can to move back home. Those who did were given prorated refunds of their room and board, while dormitories and dining halls remained open for students who had to stay on campus.

"With over 180,000 students, more than 48,000 employees and a collective economic impact of greater than $21 billion, our institutions have a crucial role to play in helping Illinois manage and recover from this grave challenge," the universities wrote.

The universities received approximately $140 million combined from the $2 trillion COVID-19 relief bill passed by Congress in March, but said that covered only part of the lost revenue and additional costs they face due to the pandemic.

"Accordingly, we support the request made by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities that Congress provide an additional $47 billion in emergency funding for students and institutions of higher education," they wrote.

"We also ask that Congress provide public institutions with the same assistance that private employers are receiving to pay for the expanded employee paid sick leave and Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) benefits included in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), enacted March 18. We estimate that our universities will expend approximately $195 million to comply with these new requirements. While private employers will receive refundable tax credits to offset the costs of these benefits, FFCRA excluded public employers from eligibility."

Congress appears poised to pass a fourth coronavirus relief package this week, providing another $250 billion in loans to small businesses. Lawmakers also are in talks about additional funding for hospitals, state and local governments, food stamps, and student loan relief.

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