CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
H.R. 959 is expected to be considered on the floor of the United States House of Representatives on May 12, 2010, under suspension of the rules. The legislation was introduced by Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA) on February 10, 2009, and it was referred to both the Committee on Education and Labor and the Committee on the Judiciary.
H.R. 959 expands eligibility for the maximum Federal Pell Grant to any student (18 years or less or was enrolled in an institution of higher learning) whose parent or legal guardian died in the line of duty while actively serving as a public safety officer. Additionally, any Pell Grant awarded to any student under H.R. 959 shall not count towards any assistance calculated under the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 as dependents of civilian federal law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.
In order to be eligible for this benefit, the student would have to be Pell Grant eligible prior to the death of his or her parent or legal guardian. Upon a parent or legal guardian's death, the student will then be eligible for the maximum Pell Grant award.
"Public Safety Officer" includes any individual who is serving a public agency in an official capacity (with or without compensation) as a law enforcement officer, firefighter, or a member of a rescue squad or ambulance officer.
"Public agency" means the United States, any state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, the Northern Marianna Islands, any territory or possession of the United States, or any unit of local government, department, agency, or instrumentality of the above, and the Amtrak Police and Federal Reserve Police departments.
The Federal Pell Grant program is funded with both discretionary and mandatory appropriations-primarily through annual discretionary appropriations. The maximum Pell Grant award is specified in annual appropriations measures. For 2010-11, the "maximum" discretionary award is $4,860. However, students may receive an additional award, which is provided through the mandatory funding portion of the Pell Grant program. For 2010-11, the maximum Pell Grant award is $5,550.
H.R. 4872-the Reconciliation Act-created a permanent stream of mandatory funding in the Pell Grant program to supplement the annual discretionary spending. This effectively increased the maximum Pell Grant award for 2011 until 2019.
A provision very similar to this bill was included in the House-passed version of H.R. 3221, the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act. The provision dropped out when the bill was folded into the Reconciliation Act.
H.R. 959 is subject to pay/go requirements. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that H.R. 959 will have a negligible cost (between $0 and $500,000 per year) from 2011 to 2020 due to the small number of students who will be eligible. To fulfill the pay/go obligation, language was included in H.R. 959 to ensure that the Pell Grant awards going to this particular population of students are subject to the discretionary spending allocation of the Pell Grant program. CBO has concluded that H.R. 959 meets pay/go requirements.