Chalk one up for our supposedly moronic president. He took on the nation’s most revered educational institution and won.
Under fierce pressure from President Trump, Harvard grudgingly blinked and agreed to give back nearly $9 million in coronavirus relief money meant to help struggling students.
The dispute was riveting entertainment — Trump, ridiculed for his intellect, versus Hah-vud, the smug school across the Charles with $40 billion in endowment money. It was the political version of The Game.
The flareup began following reports that Harvard was the recipient of CARES money meant to stimulate the nation’s economy and help laid off workers and devastated businesses, including colleges and universities.
The money was supposed to go to a range of schools, including Boston University and other Ivy League schools, and it was designed to include emergency payments to students and help schools recoup costs from lost revenue because of the disrupted school year.
On Tuesday, Trump inaccurately said Harvard was stealing money from small business loans — in fact it was from a different pool of money for educational institutions.
“They have to pay it back, I don’t like it,” Trump said.
Harvard initially said it would refuse to give back the money, saying it would go to help pay for tuition for students.
But suddenly things changed on Wednesday.
Amid a nationwide outrage over Harvard’s insistence on claiming the money, the university said it was “reviewing” the matter. Then it caved. The Ivy League institution’s leaders must have been turning a very deep shade of crimson.
“We have previously said that Harvard, like other institutions, will face significant financial challenges due to the pandemic and economic crisis it has caused. We are also concerned however, that the intense focus by politicians and others on Harvard in connection with this (aid) program may undermine participation in a relief effort that Congress created and the President signed into law for the purpose of helping students and institutions whose financial challenges in the coming months may be most severe,” Harvard said in a statement.
Harvard is just the latest big institution or corporation to give back federal money in the coronavirus relief package.
The popular chain restaurant Shake Shack decided on its own, without any prompting, to refuse to accept a $10 million government loan meant for small businesses.
Good for Shake Shack. Other chain restaurants weren’t so magnanimous, keeping the money that was supposed to be for small business owners.
That should never have happened. Congress actually included chain businesses in the loan program it passed last week — the program that is now out of money.
That was obviously a huge mistake, one that shouldn’t happen again in the next relief package.
Please, if you’re a multimillion-dollar corporation with thousands of employees, or an august university with a massive endowment, that money wasn’t meant for you. Give it back.
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