What is the CARES Act Emergency Grant Aid for Students?

On March 27, 2020, the President of the United States signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act into law.  The CARES Act contains provision for a Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF).  Institutions of higher education that receive HEERF funds agree to use at least 50% of their allocation to “provide students with emergency financial aid grants to help cover expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus.”  Wytheville Community College’s total allocation of HEERF funding is $608,738.  Of that, Wytheville has certified to the US Department of Education that it will use $605,000 for “the sole and exclusive purpose of providing emergency financial aid grants to students for their expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus, such as food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and child-care expenses.”   

Information for students, posted on the US Department of Education CARES Act website states:

The CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund-IHE/Student Aid provides funding to institutions to provide emergency financial aid grants to students whose lives have been disrupted, many of whom are facing financial challenges and struggling to make ends meet. Students cannot apply for assistance directly from the U.S. Department of Education but should contact their institutions for further information and guidance. Institutions have the responsibility of determining how grants will be distributed to students, how the amount of each student grant is calculated, and the development of any instructions or directions that are provided to students about the grant. (Source US Department of Education, for more information visit: https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ope/caresact.html)

 What is the purpose of the Emergency Grant Aid?

These CARES Act funds were designated by the Secretary of the Department of Education, Betsy DeVos, to be used by students “to cover expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus (including eligible expenses under a student’s cost of attendance, such as food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and child care).”

Who is eligible for the Emergency Grant Aid?

Students who may be eligible for grant aid include those who were:

  • enrolled in at least six (6) financial aid-eligible credits in the Spring 2020 semester prior to March 13, 2020, and
  • enrolled in at least one face-to-face course, and
  • were Title IV funds-eligible based on information provided on the FAFSA

What is the process for determining who receives Emergency Grant Aid?

In distributing these CARES Act Emergency Grant Aid to students, Wytheville’s goal is to support as many students as possible, and especially those with the greatest financial need.  However, while we would love to give a grant to every student, there were limitations placed on the funds.  In addition to the basic eligibility requirements as stated above, the process for determining which students receive a grant, and the amount of each grant award, takes into consideration:

  • demonstrated financial need, and
  • students’ independent or dependent status, and
  • the US Department of Education formula for allocation, in that a larger percentage of each college’s allocation was based on Pell-recipient enrollment

This process for determining who receives Emergency Grant Aid is being managed by Wytheville’s Office of Financial Aid.

How will I know if I am getting Emergency Grant Aid?

Funds will be sent automatically to each student who receives a grant, either by Direct Deposit, if that is already set up, or a paper check to the Mailing Address of record.  Students who receive a grant will be notified in their Message Center in SIS. 

I was notified in the SIS Message Center that I would receive an Emergency Grant but it hasn’t been deposited into my bank account and I didn’t receive a check in the mail.  What should I do? 

The college’s Business Office will be notified when deposits or checks are returned as undeliverable.  This will happen if your direct deposit information or mailing address information is not correct in SIS.  If you are expecting a direct deposit and have not received it by Monday, May 18, 2020, or if you are expecting a check and have not received it by Tuesday, May 26, 2020 (checks take longer to process and mail), you may contact the Business Office.  You will need to correct your direct deposit and/or mailing address information in SIS and confirm with the Business Office that it is up to date.  The Business Office phone number 276-223-4789 should be used for CARES Act Payment inquiries.  Calls will be returned by priority and receipt.

Who decides if I get Emergency Grant Aid?

Wytheville’s Coordinator of Financial Aid is responsible for identifying eligible students and awarding aid in accordance with the requirements of the CARES Act legislation and the US Department of Education guidance. If you have questions about the Emergency Financial Aid Grants for students, your award, please contact Mary Beth Gallagher at mgallagher@wcc.vccs.edu .

How can I use the Emergency Grant Aid?

All students receiving CARES Act cash grants are advised to prioritize use of these funds to cover expenses related to the campus closure made necessary by the COVID-19 emergency. Eligible expenses include those associated with your cost of attendance at college, including food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and child care. 

Will these funds be taxed?

Students are advised that receipt of these grants may have tax implications.  The IRS has issued an FAQ with regard to the HEERF and Emergency Financial Aid Grants under the CARES Act.  Students are advised to review this information, and if you have questions, consult a tax professional. 

 

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