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President Biden Signs COVID Relief Bill: Help Coming to Students

Stimulus checks, emergency financial aid and more for students.

Kathryn Knight Randolph

March 19, 2021

Get the details on the latest COVID relief bill, and learn more about the benefits for college students.
President Biden Signs COVID Relief Bill: Help Coming to Students
The third COVID stimulus package, The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, was signed into law by President Joe Biden just a few weeks ago, and we will soon see stimulus checks, among other benefits. The package provides Americans with greater financial relief that ranges from tax credits to unemployment benefits. But students have special reason to celebrate. The latest stimulus package is more inclusive of students and their need for aid at this time.

Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF)

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Like the previous stimulus packages, the Consolidated Appropriations Act and CARES Act, college students have the ability to receive emergency financial aid. Unlike the previous bills, however, the amount colleges are getting now is significantly more. In total, schools around the country will be provided with nearly $40 billion in aid. The stimulus package requires that schools give at least half of the amount received to students for emergency financial aid purposes. According to Forbes, these funds are no longer limited to students with exceptional financial need. Each school will likely vary in how, as well as to whom, they deliver emergency financial aid. In some cases, colleges may automatically apply it to student tuition accounts. In other cases, they may require students to apply. If you have not received any directives from your college or university regarding emergency relief funds, reach out to your school’s financial aid office with questions.

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$1,400 Stimulus Checks

Under The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, college students now qualify for a stimulus check. In the previous stimulus packages, only dependents 17 and under were considered. There is a big however, though. The money will go to the taxpayer that has claimed the student on their taxes, meaning that most students’ parents will receive the $1,400 stimulus check on behalf of their college students. It’s up to you to work with your parents on who should receive that money and where it should be spent once it’s in their account. If you are an independent student, though, we have good news. You – and only you – will receive your $1,400 stimulus check.

FAFSA Help

Forbes reports that the U.S. Department of Education will receive $91 million for student aid administration as part of the COVID-19 relief package. The bill outlines that the Department can use it to “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus including direct outreach to students and borrowers about financial aid, economic impact payments, means-tested benefits, unemployment assistance, and tax benefits, for which the students and borrowers may be eligible.” In layman’s terms, the Department of Education will use this money to help students apply for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as the FAFSA. According to Form Your Future’s FAFSA Tracker, only 43% of the graduating high school class has completed their FAFSA, which is down 9% from last year.

Tax Credits

Finally, for students who have children, there is relief in the form of tax credits. Parents with children under the age of 6 will receive up to $3,600 a year per child and $3,000 for children between the ages of 6 and 17, according to Forbes. Because this has extended the age range to 17, some college freshmen will be included within the tax credit requirements. However, that money will, once again, go directly to parents.

Get More Financial Aid Help

It is never too late in the financial aid process to ask for more aid, especially if your family has experienced financial loss because of the pandemic. Most students and their families do not know that they can actually appeal financial aid packages from colleges. This will be an especially popular option for families, as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to contribute to job loss, furlough, and other financial setbacks. Additionally, with the further relief from the federal government, colleges will have more financial aid to distribute to students that need help. To appeal your financial aid package, or to ask for more help because of a new or continuing financial setback, simply reach out to the financial aid office at your college. You will have to explain your situation; and in many cases, the financial aid office may ask for documentation to prove your case. Do not be intimidated by this. You will not be on trial. Rather, the financial aid office wants proof that your story is legitimate. They also want to be sure they’re doing everything they can to make your college journey financially feasible. Hopefully, this pandemic has taught students to ask for help when they need it, to not be afraid to advocate for themselves. There is help available; you just have to ask. Be sure you’re maximizing your financial aid options.

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