New COVID-19 relief funds, same pandemic

By Isabella Cano, Feb. 9, 2021

Almost 10 months after the disbursal of the first Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, a second emergency grant of approximately $48.6 million has been issued to Cal Poly Pomona under the newly passed Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act.

Despite the $17.7 million increase in funds compared to those provided by the original CARES Act, this second relief fund, passed on Dec. 27, 2020, apportioned the same minimum amount of $15.4 million to be utilized solely for student grants.

While the amount the university is expected to receive is set, CPP’s administration has yet to formulate a final eligibility model or set dollar amount for student fund distributions.

Jessica Wagoner, senior associate vice president of enrollment and management services, emphasized that the funds have not yet reached the university. However, two prospective disbursement models are to be presented to the provost and president within a week.

“We need to pull our student profile, look at how many of them are eligible, look at the funding we have, and then see what the best model will be,” said Wagoner.

Grace Johnson | The Poly Post

According to the CPP administration, a portion of the $15.4 million intended for student relief aid will be held by the university as reserve funds for unforeseen occurrences and possible policy changes.

“This was a Trump administration passage and now we have the Biden administration so rules may change, and we don’t want students to be left with nothing,” Wagoner added.

As the pandemic rages on and the political climate continues to shift, students face further hardships. Crystal Gomez, a fourth-year computer information systems student, expressed high hopes for the upcoming federal aid.

“I think that the school should carry this out the same way they did last time since I didn’t struggle to receive my money,” said Gomez. “But I do think that undocumented, international, and low income students should be a higher priority in these cases.”

Unlike its predecessor, this second relief fund requires universities to prioritize students who display “exceptional need” when awarding funds. Students who fall under this category are identified as Pell Grant eligible on the FAFSA for this year and have an Estimated Family Contribution of $0 to $5,711.

Given that the relief funds are federally funded, undocumented and international students still remain ineligible to receive this emergency aid. According to CPP administrators, a supplemental aid plan for these students has not yet been created but is under consideration.

“We got permission from the Chancellor’s Office to use institutional funds, if we have any available, for our undocumented students,” said Wagoner. “Last time, we followed a similar model with the Broncos Care program and that will definitely be something we will try to do again.”

In response to prevalent student concerns regarding how this grant may affect their overall financial aid, Charles Conn, associate director of financial aid and scholarships, emphasized that these funds do not pose the same threat ASI navigated when allocating aid last fall.

“Just like the first round of funding with the CARES Act, these funds will not be taxable income and they will not impact a student’s existing financial aid eligibility,” Conn said.

More information regarding the CRRSAA HEERF II at the federal level can be found on the U.S. Department of Education website.

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