Trump says Harvard will return coronavirus stimulus money

John Fritze

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Tuesday that Harvard University would return coronavirus stimulus money he said was intended for small businesses – and added that he would ask other large entities to do so as well. 

“Harvard’s going to return the money,” the president asserted at his daily press conference on Tuesday. “They shouldn’t have taken it.” Trump later said he wants the university to return the money, but indicated that it had not agreed to do so.

"If they won’t do that, then we’ll do something else," the president said, without elaborating. 

Harvard has come under fire for receiving nearly $9 million in funding from the bipartisan coronavirus relief package. The school has said the money would be used for helping Harvard students who need financial assistance. It has also said that it did not apply for or receive any money intended for small businesses. 

Instead, the university said, it received a portion of Department of Education funding that was distributed to thousands of schools across the country.  

"Like most colleges and universities, Harvard has been allocated funds as part of the CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund," the university said in a statement. "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."

The funding was distributed to schools based on a formula that includes how many students receive federal financial aid through Pell Grants.

Trump administration officials have faced questions about other large businesses, such as Shake Shack, that received some portion of the money intended for smaller companies. Shake Shack said recently it would return the money, and Trump indicated he would ask other large companies to follow suit.

“The intent was not for companies that have access to plenty of liquidity and resources,” said Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who threatened but did not specify additional “consequences” for companies that did not comply.