Last week, there was an update to the CARES Act: Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) that resulted in previously-approved applications seeing an automatic approval for up to $800, based on the last available criteria. This money would be directly deposited to the applicant, though it is possible a response email would give the option for utilizing the money toward their student account balance instead.
However, the email came rapidly with little explanation and some confusion for those who were not able to submit their application during the first round, as the original application at the start of the pandemic was evaluated via a Google Form.
Students who already met the requirements should have seen their deposit statement from PSU—or may have received their funds already—but where does that leave students who may not have met the criteria or are looking for more information?
The PSU CARES Act Emergency Fund site has more information, and applications are open as of Oct. 18. The website states that you must be an undergraduate or graduate student enrolled at PSU, and additional documentation to prove expenses will not be required based on the website. Providing information is simple enough in order to apply, mostly filling out how much of the $800 you are requesting, what expenses you are currently struggling with (food, technology, etc.), where you are living and if you would like the funds applied to any outstanding balance. If there is any additional information needed, the Financial Wellness Center will reach out directly. It is also important to note that applications will not impact a student’s financial aid eligibility package.
As of Sunday, Oct. 24, applications for the funding are still open to the public. While the last round of applications had awards that varied based on needs, the maximum per student for this cycle of applications is maxed at $800, and the funds do not automatically go towards your student balance, due to the money being provided by the government directly. The $800 capped limit comes at a highly reduced rate in comparison to the nearly $3,000 max per student in 2020.
The U.S. Department of Education’s website has gone over the CARES Act allotments to schools nationwide, roughly $14 billion broken down into different categories such as institutions by enrollment or direct to students. In addition, there was another $30 billion allocated to education in the same breakdown standard for institutions.
Each school has handled how it distributes and supplies the money to students differently—which is why the program at PSU changes from utilizing a Google Form application to a well-established website. Updates to the website for the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act—which authorized the HEERF—can be found as recently as March of this year, but it is uncertain if there will be more to come, considering the sudden availability of funds. Portland State did not specify if this new round of applications is from newly allocated funds, or left over from the previous one.
The PSU site for the emergency grants has more information including the number of transactions, students and amount distributed (versus received). Currently, the site states that, to be pre-qualified for this round, a student would need to have an estimated family contribution of zero or qualify for the Pell Grant and be enrolled as of Oct. 10, 2021. Based on the numbers provided on the website, there is still roughly $20,000 available to be distributed to eligible students, so if you are a student who has not applied previously—or you believe your eligibility status may have changed—follow the instructions on the website to see if you qualify.