COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities, Inc. (SCICU), along with Bob Jones University and Clinton College, have filed an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief with the South Carolina Supreme Court supporting Governor McMaster’s motion to rehear Adams v. McMaster and clarify that private colleges and universities should have access to CARES Act funding authorized by the General Assembly in Act 154.
“Private colleges and universities deserve to apply for reimbursements for COVID-19 costs, just as directed by Congress and affirmed by Act 154 of the General Assembly,” said SCICU President and CEO Jeffrey Perez.
In the Adams case the court ruled against Governor McMaster’s proposed use of $32 million of federal CARES Act funding for the Safe Access to Flexible Education (“SAFE”) Grants program, which would provide financial support to K-12 students attending private schools. The court found that because the money came into the state treasury before being disbursed it became state “public” money, which the South Carolina Constitution prohibits being used for direct aid to private and religious institutions.
At the same time SCICU member institutions were in the process of applying to the S.C. Department of Administration for federal CARES Act funding to reimburse them for COVID-19 expenses, as authorized by the General Assembly in Act 154.
“In testimony to the S.C. House and Senate before passage of Act 154, I reported that SCICU member institutions had identified $12.2 million in reimbursable COVID-19-related expenses, that our campuses are to be commended for their extensive COVID-19 precautions, and that they deserve access to the funding as instructed by the CARES Act,” said Perez. “We deeply appreciate the leadership demonstrated by the General Assembly in recognizing our needs and including SCICU member institutions in Act 154.”
However, the South Carolina Department of Administration, which is responsible for administering the Act 154 funding, informed SCICU that it was not going to process the applications from private colleges and universities because it felt the Adams case ruling rendered the agency and its leadership liable if they did so.
The governor has filed with the Supreme Court a motion for rehearing the case, among the arguments being that the court was overly broad in its interpretation of “public” monies. In an amicus brief U.S. Attorney Peter McCoy supported the governor’s motion, asserting that the CARES Act funding remained federal and did not become public because it was temporarily deposited in the state treasury before being disbursed. Thus, he asserts, the state constitutional prohibition does not apply.
Today SCICU also filed an amicus brief which supports the arguments made in the U.S. Attorney’s amicus brief and seeks a clarification that will permit the S.C. Department of Administration to begin processing the Act 154 funding requests from private colleges and universities.