On Tuesday, Trump stated that he was aware of a plan by Harvard to return some $8.6 million in grant money it received as part of a COVID-19 relief package. Trump pointed out that Harvard has a $41 billion ample endowment, which makes them one of the wealthiest universities in the US. As such, he argued, the school would be giving back the COVID relief money.
“Harvard is going to pay back the money and they shouldn’t be taking it,” Trump stated Tuesday. He noted that Harvard’s endowment is one of the largest “in the country, maybe in the world.” However, this came as news to Harvard, who has stated that they have no intention of returning the relief money. The university has noted that the money will help them keep students enrolled even as they try to finish their MBA online.
After Trump guessed about the university’s plan on live TV, Harvard clarified the situation. The university noted that they would “direct 100% of the funds to financial assistance to students, and will not be using any of the funds to cover institutional costs.” Their statement was given only moments after Trump’s televised address ended.
The money that Harvard received was part of the stimulus package passed by Congress at the end of March. Harvard tapped into the money from the educational side of the stimulus, though that wasn’t all the bill did. It also set up the Paycheck Protection Program, which was intended to help small businesses meet payroll. That fund, however, is now mired in controversy.
The PPP was intended to help small businesses impacted by COVID-19 make their payroll. It was only for businesses under 500 employees, but there were notable exceptions. For instance, restaurants and hotels were eligible for the loans as well. This led to some questionably large companies tapping into the fund.
Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, for instance, soaked up huge amounts of the relief money. Shake Shack, a national burger chain, also borrowed millions. The burger chain did, however, return the money after learning that the fund had run out of cash.
Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin stated that this was not the intent for the fund. “The intent was not for companies that have access to plenty of liquidity and other sources,” Mnuchin told reporters. “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 consequence,” he added.