If you’re looking for emergency funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, be prepared to wait.
Students have reported waiting for weeks and even months for the funding intended to make up for the sudden losses many families incurred as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In May, the University of Michigan opened coronavirus relief bill emergency funding to eligible students on the Ann Arbor campus. Since then, over $7.2 million have been given to students through the program. However, as many students look to reapply and many more apply for the first time, questions remain about who is eligible and how the process will work.
University spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald said students will be eligible regardless of their prior applications for funding in the last academic year.
“All students enrolled for the fall semester (regardless if they received CARES funding in a previous term) have the (COVID-19) emergency application made available to them,” Fitzgerald wrote.
Engineering sophomore Eli Siegel said he is still trying to secure funding and has now submitted three Emergency Funding for Students requests to no avail.
“Initially, my parents wanted me to fill out the application to gain some money for tuition because my father was laid off directly due to COVID-19,” Siegel said.
The Dean of Students Office lists “tuition and other university fees” as an expense generally ineligible for coronavirus relief bill funding. Food, travel and rent are all described as “Expenses Generally Covered.”
Siegel acknowledged the amount his parents requested may have played a role in his application’s rejection, but said he couldn’t know what was appropriate because the University did not provide any information beyond that his application was rejected. When asked about the level of communication he received from the University, Siegel said there was next to none.
“The first time they just said they denied our request, they just said they were unable to help at all, and that was it,” Siegel said. “And we haven’t heard anything else… In terms of instructions on what you should be requesting, I think that the University could do a lot more to communicate what would be covered under the CARES funding instead of relying on students to look that up themselves.”
General information on expense eligibility for general emergency funding can be found at the Dean of Students Office website, but they acknowledge that criteria of what is and is not eligible for coverage may be modified on a case-by-case basis due to the evolving nature of the pandemic.
The Dean of Students Office also says their staff will work with students to identify other alternative resources to meet student needs. Siegel said he has received no such contact.
Siegel also noted he submitted his second application in July but has not heard anything since.
Nursing freshman Mo Falconer applied for coronavirus relief bill funding in late July but didn’t receive the funding until August 31. Falconer said her experience was fairly simple, but she, too, found the process took a long time.
“(I) lost income due to my mom being a healthcare worker and having to be out of work a lot,” Falconer said. “The process was not too bad at all, it just took a while to go through.”
LSA junior Ethan Briggs is still waiting for his emergency funding, which he said surprised him considering his experience applying for funding last semester. This time it has taken twice as long, and he has still not heard from the University. He shared with The Michigan Daily how frustrating it has been to have not received so much as a brief email explaining the hold-up with his application.
Briggs said he worries this delay could impact others who can’t afford to go without the additional funding.
“I wish that the University was a bit more clear about how long it's going to take, so that it shows some urgency on their end,” Briggs said. “I can survive without (the CARES) money for at least a little while, but there are students that live paycheck to paycheck, and for them I think it’d be nice to see that the University has some urgency in getting them assistance.”
Of the 7,129 students who have applied for coronavirus relief bill relief, 5,302 have received money. It is not clear how many of the applicants who have not received funding had their applications rejected and how many have applications pending.
Coronavirus relief bill funding is available to students on all three campuses, and the application can be accessed through Wolverine Access.
Daily Staff Reporter Dominic Coletti can be reached at email@example.com.