In February 2022, the House passed the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education and Science (COMPETES) Act, a legislative package that invests in research, innovation and American manufacturing. The Senate had passed a similar bill, the US Innovation & Competition Act (USICA), in June 2021.
On Wednesday, April 6, 2022, the Biden-Harris administration further extended the moratorium on federal student loan repayment, interest and collections through Wednesday, August 31, 2022. This postponement marks the fourth time President Biden has extended federal student loan relief and the sixth time since the onslaught of the public health emergency relating to the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020.
On February 10, 2022, the U.S. Senate passed the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act (EFASASHA), barring the enforcement of most mandatory arbitration provisions in cases alleging sexual assault or sexual harassment. Having previously passed in the U.S. House of Representatives, the bill has now gone to the desk of President Biden, who is expected to sign it into law. Once in effect, EFASASHA will apply to all pre-dispute arbitration clauses, including those in contracts executed before the law’s enactment. The law will also invalidate pre-dispute agreements that waive an employee’s right to participate in a joint, class or collective action in court, arbitration or any other forum that relates to a sexual assault or sexual harassment dispute. Furthermore, if a dispute arises about whether a particular claim qualifies as a “sexual assault dispute” or “sexual harassment dispute,” then a court, not an arbitrator, is to answer that question, even if a contractual term exists to the contrary.
For the past two years, the United States government has had to deal with most major legislative and regulatory actions against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. In making policy, the federal government has been forced, either explicitly or implicitly, to account for the pandemic’s effect on businesses, various segments of the health care industry, the nation’s supply chain and everyday Americans. The most recent surge of the Omicron variant continues to highlight the enormous strain this pandemic has on the national economy and the health care system.
On Wednesday, December 22, the Biden-Harris administration announced its decision to provide federal student loan borrowers an additional 90 days of repayment relief. This pause on federal student loan repayments is scheduled to last through the start of May 2022. This is the third time the administration has extended the repayment moratorium since taking office in January 2021.
On Monday, November 15, President Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (P. L. 117 – 58), a historic bipartisan piece of legislation that will make available $1.2 trillion in funding for infrastructure programs. The House of Representatives passed the legislation via a bipartisan vote of 228 to 206. While education is not the main focus of the legislation, provisions related to broadband, workforce development and green infrastructure will benefit elementary, secondary and post-secondary institutions of education. Akin Gump has outlined some of the most beneficial education-related provisions included in the bill and outlined them below.
On Monday, October 18, 2021, the Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), released a budget proposal for fiscal year 2022 for the Department of Education. In total, the Committee proposed to allocate $98.4 billion in base discretionary funding for the department—an increase of $24.9 billion over Fiscal Year 2021 and $4.4 billion less than the budget request issued by the Biden-Harris Administration in May 2021.
Despite the Biden-Harris administration having begun more than nine months ago, only six of its nominees to the Department of Education have been confirmed by the Senate: Dr. Miguel Cardona to serve as the Secretary of the Department of Education; Ms. Cindy Marten as Deputy Secretary of Education and Mr. James Kvaal to be Under-Secretary of the Department of Education. Three nominees are still awaiting a floor vote and five presidentially-appointed positions have yet to have a nominee announced.