To the surprise of many, USF started distributing financial aid from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act fund on Sunday afternoon to eligible students facing financial hardships due to COVID-19.
Over the weekend, USF was awarded over $34 million in total aid, of which around $17 million will be used to provide emergency financial aid to students for expenses related to COVID-19, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Why did I receive funding?
At around 3 p.m. on Sunday, some students started receiving an email from the Office of Financial Aid communicating their eligibility and awarded funds.
The average student received $1,000 for their relief package, though the award amounts varied depending on the student’s circumstances.
Students were automatically selected to receive the grant if they had previously filed a Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application, had exhausted all other funding options available or had been financially impacted by COVID-19, according to the CARES Act FAQ.
Appropriate circumstances for those who have been affected by COVID-19 financially include losing a job or being furloughed, or having a parent in that circumstance.
The purpose of the awarded amount is to help cover expenses such as food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, relocation to return home and child care.
For students who received funding, they must log in to OASIS and fill out the COVID-19 (CARES) Expense Form to secure the money. Once the form is processed, the total amount awarded will be deposited in each student’s account within two to three business days.
If students don’t have an active E-Deposit account in OASIS, a check will be sent to their local mailing address within seven business days.
Why didn’t I receive funding?
Students who didn’t automatically get the funding were confused until the university opened applications to receive a CARES Act grant at 8 a.m. Monday.
Vice President of Student Success Paul Dosal laid out certain eligibility requirements in an email to students that are enforced by the federal government.
The eligibility criteria for the CARES Act application include current degree-seeking students enrolled at least half time in spring 2020 who are eligible to apply for federal Title IV financial aid and those who have exhausted all their funding options and have been impacted by COVID-19.
Students applying for the CARES Act grant will need to provide documentation as well as a statement describing the need. Required documents may include layoff/furlough notice, receipts of any expense related to COVID-19 and bills.
International students, who are not U.S. citizens, are not eligible because they can’t apply for federal Title IV financial aid.
The deadline to apply for the Federal CARES Act Emergency Financial Aid Application is Aug. 7 or until the funds are depleted.
What is the CARES Act?
Since students will be receiving funds this week, it is important to know how the CARES Act came to fruition.
The CARES Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 27, created an Educational Stabilization Fund to support K-12 schools and higher education institutions around the country facing economic hardships from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Of the $2 trillion from the CARES Act, about $30 billion was allocated to the Educational Stabilization Fund. Over $14 billion of that fund was directed to higher education institutions around the country, including USF.
Out of the $14 billion, $12.56 billion was distributed to institutions based on student enrollment. Around 50 percent of the amount allocated to each institution must be reserved to provide students with emergency financial aid grants, according to a letter from U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
In the letter, DeVos said, “each institution may develop its own system and process for determining how to allocate these funds, which may include distributing the funds to all students or only to students who demonstrate significant need.”
Dosal said in the email that a small portion of the CARES Act will be “held back for distribution to students during the summer and/or fall” due to the unknown impact of COVID-19 in the next few months.
With some questions still looming about the funding, students may have answers this week.
The university will hold a student virtual town hall Tuesday from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. The livestream can be accessed at usf.edu/livestream and will address the latest COVID-19 updates as well as support services available for students.