Coronavirus: Harvard says it won't accept relief funds

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Image caption,
The elite university is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Harvard University says it has decided not to accept nearly $9m (£7.3m) in coronavirus relief aid, a move that was criticised by President Donald Trump.

Mr Trump had said he was unhappy that the prestigious US university had received stimulus money.

Harvard is rated the world's wealthiest university with an endowment fund valued at $40bn.

But the elite Ivy League college said it faced "significant financial challenges" because of the pandemic.

In a statement, the university said it was concerned that "the intense focus by politicians and others" on Harvard could undermine participation in the relief effort.

"As a result of this, and the evolving guidance being issued around use of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, Harvard has decided not to seek or accept the funds allocated to it by statute," it said.

The $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (Cares) Act was signed into law by Mr Trump last month. It reserved $12.5bn in federal aid to about 5,000 colleges and universities.

Media caption,
Trump on Harvard: 'They have to give it back'

At a daily briefing on Tuesday, Mr Trump told a journalist that he wanted Harvard to pay back the money that it had been allocated.

"They have to pay it back, I don't like it," he said. "This is meant for workers, this isn't meant for one of the richest institutions. They got to pay it back."

Harvard then issued a statement acknowledging it had been allotted $8.6m through the Cares Act, but did not say at that stage it would pay the money back.

The college tweeted at the time: "Harvard has committed that 100% 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."

It said it had already provided financial assistance to students with travel, living expenses and online education amid the pandemic.

In its most recent statement, it said it "did not apply for this support, nor has it requested, received or accessed these funds".

Harvard has not been the only wealthy university to receive a windfall under the stimulus package. Princeton, which has a $26bn endowment, is getting $2.4m, while Yale - endowment $30bn - is receiving $6.9m.