'U' gives CARES Act funding to 5 percent of eligible students

Friday, May 29, 2020 - 7:19pm

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The University reported that emergency student funding from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act has been awarded to approximately 5 percent of eligible students as of Tuesday.

The CARES Act, which offered emergency grants to institutions of higher education to counteract the effects of the pandemic, provided $25.2 million to the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor with the condition that at least half of the allocated funds be distributed to students for emergency financial aid. The act requires universities to report how many students received grants and how much funding has been distributed 30 days after accepting the federal aid.

Students at the University who were eligible to receive support from the CARES Act funding received an email with the application details in early May. The funds are intended to address COVID-19 expenses that arose after the outbreak.

The University published the current data on the Office of Budget and Planning website on Tuesday, reaffirming a minimum of $12,622,026 in emergency grants will go to students.

The page states $2,712,486 of the $12,622,026 has been awarded to students, about 21.49 percent of the total available financial aid. Of the estimated 39,388 eligible students, 1,997 have received emergency grants, which is roughly 5 percent.

Several other large universities have already distributed a larger percentage of their emergency financial aid to a larger percentage of eligible students. The University of California at Berkeley reported it distributed about 86.26 percent of its emergency aid mandated for students to 68.38 percent of eligible students. Wayne State University disclosed they distributed 41.34 percent of its CARES funding to 32.28 percent of eligible students. 

At Michigan State University, CARES funding has run out because applications requesting aid “far exceeded available dollars and the funds are now exhausted,” according to MSU’s Office of Financial Aid.

In an email to The Daily, University spokeswoman Kim Broekhuizen explained the administration is distributing the emergency funds with the intention of supporting eligible students from the winter 2020 semester through winter 2021.

“The act instructs institutions to award funding for expenses related to COVID-19 caused by the disruption of campus instruction and to do so for the duration of one year,” Broekhuizen said. “The University is making decisions based on the needs expressed by applicants, their eligibility for funds and the University's need to provide funds to a potential large number of students over a long period of time. The process will evolve as the University moves through the next year.”

In an email to The Daily, Public Health student Anthony Dang said he applied to receive emergency aid in early May because his paid internship opportunity, which would have covered his summer expenses, was canceled and he was only receiving a stipend from a different internship. Dang received nearly the entire amount in funding he requested and said it would help cover his rent.

“Now that I have funding I am extremely relieved about surviving for the rest of the summer,” Dang wrote. “I was currently looking for a part-time job to do in addition to my full-time internship, but stopped at the moment knowing that I have these emergency funds.”

Dang added he was appreciative for the support the grant provided, but he was disappointed many other students weren’t able to secure emergency funding. 

“Although I was very content that my request was fulfilled more generously than expected, I was extremely disheartened and upset to hear my fellow peers didn't receive funding who sounded like they needed the money as bad as me or more than me,” Dang wrote.

One eligible student, who requested to remain anonymous to avoid disclosing their personal financial situation, said in messages to The Daily through Reddit they requested funding to address housing and technological expenses. The student received an email 15 days later notifying them they would not be able to receive emergency funds.

Rejection email for CARES Act funding

Rejection email for CARES Act funding Buy this photo
Courtesy of Arjun Thakkar

When the student attempted to ask for an explanation as to why they could not receive funds, they received a reply that said, “Please note, there is not a reconsideration or appeal process for this program.”

The student, who is taking spring courses, said not receiving the funding has made it harder for them to take part in the remote semester since their laptop has sustained damage. They also said they don’t feel supported by the University.

“The lack of transparency in the process is troubling, and at a time where students needed the most help it feels like the University was trying to place a monetary amount on our struggles then saying our struggles were ‘not enough,’” the student said.

Daily Staff Reporter Arjun Thakkar can be reached at arjunt@umich.edu.