Amid a pandemic, U.S. college students will soon have access to phase-two of emergency financial aid grants to help them pay for school. This second round of emergency student aid known as the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund II (HEERF II) is a result of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriation Act that was signed into law by President Donald Trump in December of 2020. According to a January press release from the Department of Education, $20.5 billion in funds will go toward public and non-profit colleges. Acting U.S. Secretary of Education, Dr. Mitchell Zais, ensures a speedy distribution of funds saying, “The Department is working quickly, yet again, to ensure taxpayer-funded COVID relief allocated by Congress gets to those who need it most. I would encourage leaders of our higher education institutions to use this funding...to support students who are struggling financially in the wake of this pandemic...” This latest segment of emergency aid comes as part-two, as a similar form of financial aid was granted in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) ACT signed into law in March 2020. Unlike the CARES Act, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, confirms there is more flexibility in spending with the second round of emergency aid for higher education institutions.However, student funding is protected with key minimums. According to a recent Forbes article, upon distribution of funds, public and private non-profit colleges must use a minimum, 50 percent of university appropriated funds as student financial aid grants. One hundred percent of the allocated funds provided to private, for-profit colleges shall be distributed in the form of financial aid grants for students. In round two of emergency federal aid, students that exclusively enrolled via distance education (such as online courses only) will have access to money as well. According to an FAQ on the Department of Education website, the CARES Act did not allow online students to receive any emergency funding to help them pay for college. This student-focused guideline is an effort to ensure America’s college students get the money they need to continue school. Find out what your for-profit university or public/nonprofit college will be granted via the HEERF II.Students that have opted-in at their university to have financial aid funds applied directly to their student account, will likely obtain emergency grants in the same fashion. However, distribution methods can differ at colleges. You’re encouraged to contact your school’s financial aid office for specific questions.
Emergency-Aid Distribution, Round TwoPriority is given to students with exceptional financial needs. For example, if you’re an eligible student that has received Pell Grants* you’re considered a top candidate for emergency money. This Pell-Grant recipient prioritization demonstrates the importance of completing the FAFSA. If you have not completed yours, check out Fastweb’s Instagram FAFSA Guide to help you get started or visit the Federal Student Aid website. Additionally, and according to the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, if you’re not a recipient of a Federal Pell Grant, you still have access to these funds.
Emergency Money UseStudents that receive emergency grants, may use the money they’re provided to cover costs associated with college attendance and COVID-related financial hurdles. This includes costs such as: • Tuition • Food • Housing • Health Care • Mental Health Care • Child Care Students do not have to pay back funds received from the HEERF grant.
How to Ask for Emergency Financial GrantAs the Emergency Relief Fund was recently announced, university and college administrators are waiting to hear their institution's expected fund allocation per the U.S. Department of Education. According to the Department of Education’s website, financial aid directors and administrators can expect to hear specific funding details in the next few weeks. Below are suggestions on how you may ask your college for emergency money to help you pay for school:
- Evaluate whether or not you need more financial aid. It’s important you only ask for additional money if you need it. Don’t ask for more money than you truly need. On the flip side, if you’re struggling to stay in college, don’t feel ashamed to ask for financial help! In fact, financial aid concerns are one of the reasons students drop out of college.
- Visit your school’s financial aid or COVID webpages. Your school's website is updated often. This is typically where important, student-related news is shared. Check here first to see if your college has provided any HEERF II details.
- Open your student email. Your financial aid office will likely send out announcements and updates via email. You can often find step-by-step instructions to ask for emergency grants here.
- Ask for financial aid help. If you have not received the emergency relief details you’re looking for—and you have allowed your financial aid office a few weeks to distribute a plan—consider emailing the financial aid office at your college.