I thank the Chairman and the members of the committee. I am grateful for the opportunity to address the committee as part of its consideration of the Supplementary Estimate for the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science for 2020. The Minster, Deputy Harris, sends his apologies for not being in attendance today and has asked that I represent the Department in his absence. I propose to give a brief initial overview of the Supplementary Estimate and I will be happy to address any questions that members may have.
By way of background the Minister, Deputy Harris, was before this committee as recently as last month as part of the 2020 Further Revised Estimates process. At that point Vote 45 for this Department was established and €2.3 billion was moved from the Department of Education in line with the functions that transferred to this Department along with approval of some €173 million in additional funding for the Vote. It was highlighted to the committee at that stage that the intention was to return to seek consideration of additional funding required for a once-off student support initiative. The idea was that this would be dealt with subsequently through the Supplementary Estimates process and this is reason we are here today. The 2020 Supplementary Estimate currently before the committee relates exclusively to the additional €43.5 million expenditure from the Vote in 2020 to implement the once-off Covid-19 student assistance fund for the academic year 2020-2021 announced as part of budget 2021 and agreed at the Government meeting of 17 November.
The Department has been conscious of the impact the pandemic has had on our students. To ensure the safety of our students and staff in further and higher education, the majority of college tuition is being provided online for this semester and this is being further considered in line with public health advice. This level of uncertainty and the additional pressure on our third level students have been difficult and require significant financial, operational and well-being supports. In recognition of the challenges facing third level students, the Government has approved once-off funding to provide additional financial assistance in this academic year. This is projected to cost some €43.5 million based on current estimated student numbers. To pave the way for addressing this uncertainty and pressure, financial and mental, on our students a range of measures have been provided in 2020 through this once-off ring-fenced additional funding provision. This once-off fund in 2020 will provide financial assistance at this unprecedented time to approximately 170,000 students in our third level sector. This funding builds on the measures announced as part of Covid financial supports for the sector in July. Elements of this funding assisted students through the provision of laptops for disadvantaged students and increasing the student assistance fund.
The Department has engaged intensively with the Higher Education Authority, Student Universal Support Ireland, SUSI, and key stakeholders such as the Irish Universities Association, the Technological Higher Education Association and Technological University Dublin in developing this process. As part of this process it has been critical to acknowledge the limited timeframe for distribution of this funding in 2020 and the necessity that existing processes need to be utilised. Officials in the Department continue to engage with these stakeholders in the roll-out of the funding. Measures are being put in place to mitigate the risks of duplicate payments and to ensure appropriate levels of governance in line with the guidelines for SUSI and the higher education providers.
This once-off ring-fenced funding allocation for 2020 will not have any long-term impact on SUSI grant provision or other student services and will not alter the review of SUSI which is being developed. The Covid student assistance fund will provide financial assistance to all full-time third level students in publicly funded institutions in recognition of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Therefore, in cases of more than one third level student per family, each student will be entitled to receive the full €250 amount. I thank the committee again for its consideration of this Supplementary Estimate and I am happy to engage on any issues which members wish to raise.