Harvard University has pushed back against President Donald Trump after he demanded it pay back $8.6 million in coronavirus relief aid.
President Trump said he was unhappy that the ultra-wealthy Ivy League college had received stimulus money.
However, Harvard University said the funds would help students facing “urgent financial needs” because of the pandemic.
Harvard is rated the world’s wealthiest university with an endowment fund valued at $40 billion.
At April 21 coronavirus briefing, President Trump told a journalist: “I want Harvard to pay that money back, OK? If they won’t do that, we won’t do something else.
“They have to pay it back, I don’t like it. This is meant for workers, this isn’t meant for one of the richest institutions, not only, far beyond schools in the world. They got to pay it back.”
In a statement that followed, Harvard acknowledged receiving its $8.6 million through the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act that President Trump signed last month.
However, Harvard did not say it would pay the money back.
The university tweeted: “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.”
Harvard said it had already provided financial assistance to students with travel, living expenses and online education amid the pandemic.
However, it disputed President Trump’s suggestion that it had received aid through the Payment Protection Program (PPP), a fund intended as a lifeline for businesses struggling amid the pandemic.
The university said it had instead benefited from the stimulus bill’s Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, which disburses money based on an institution’s overall number of students and how many lower-income students are enrolled.
The CARES Act reserved $12.5 billion in federal aid to about 5,000 colleges and universities.
Harvard was not the only elite university to receive a windfall under the stimulus. Princeton, which has a $26 billion endowment, is getting $2.4 million, while Yale – endowment $30 billion – is receiving $6.9 million.
On April 21, the US Senate approved another $330 billion of emergency relief funds to help small businesses stay afloat during the pandemic after the original aid package of $350 billion ran out of money last week.
The PPP was designed to help so-called mom-and-pop stores keep staff on the payroll during the coronavirus emergency that has left 22 million American workers claiming unemployment benefits.
However, instead of going towards such small businesses, nearly $250 billion of the initial stimulus went to publicly traded companies with market values topping $100 million, according to analysis from Morgan Stanley, an investment bank.