Second wave of CARES Act funds distributed to students

Left out of the federal stimulus package, some students say the initial wave of CARES funding awarded them little to none of what they initially applied for.

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 As of July 27, more than $11 million has been distributed to almost 9,300 students.

Jasmine Snow

As new COVID-19 relief is hashed out in Congress, funds from the first wave of the CARES Act continue to be distributed at the University of Minnesota. 

On June 2, the University opened CARES Act funding applications for students enrolled during the spring 2020 semester. About $5 million of more than $12.6 million CARES Act funds available to the Twin Cities campus was distributed to students through the June 22 deadline. During the initial “wave” of distributed funds, about 8,800 students received aid. 

Now, the University of Minnesota is distributing a second wave of the federal funds to eligible students who may have not received all or any of their initial request in June. As of July 27, more than $11 million has been distributed to almost 9,300 students.

Courtney Ricci, a fourth-year sports management University student, lost her summer internship due to the pandemic and had to move back home with her parents in Pennsylvania. She was receiving unemployment benefits when she applied for about $1,100 of initial aid. 

Ricci’s justifying costs included setting up a work-from-home office and other displacement costs.

She said while she was grateful any funds were coming her way, she felt frustrated when she had only received $100 of her ask. She said as she started trying to plan for the coming semester, unemployment benefits would not provide the verifiable income she would need to secure a lease. 

The eligibility process has been unclear to many students and has changed over time. Students are required to submit their general financial aid information and provide a justification for how the funds are going to be used.

“I was really confused at the [CARES] requirements,” Ricci said. “… I just was really confused and getting scared because I didn’t want to just rest on unemployment. So not that it was all about the CARES Act in that situation, but at that point in time, I was just really panicked about money.” 

Monday night, Ricci said she got an email stating she would receive another $500. 

COVID-19 interrupted computer science major Christopher You’s virtual/augmented reality research at the University and his summer internship in Seattle. While he was able to continue his internship remotely from Minneapolis, he initially applied for about $1,300 for a month of rent and computer upgrades so he could continue some work from home. 

He also only received $100 of his ask in the first wave. Monday brought him another $500.

“I tried to not ask for a ton,” he said. “I know a lot of people were in a not great situation, and while it wasn’t great for me, I managed without much. … It’s still obviously not what I asked for, but it’s much better than the $100 I got the first time.”

Some students have been luckier than others with their requests. 

Cynthia Moua, a third-year business and marketing education major, first applied for $1,000. She said she justified the application with education supplies for herself and her siblings, as well as temporary supplemented income from the loss of one of her two jobs. 

She received $910 of that initial ask and said she was grateful to have received anything, given that she might have been left out of the federal stimulus package that gave most U.S. adults $1,200. 

“As someone who’s kind of been through a financial crisis before, I felt like I had to be more reasonable with myself,” Moua said. “I was so thankful that I got that much back.”

On Monday, Moua received an email saying the University would transfer the rest of what she asked for in the coming weeks. 

“It’s been very helpful,” she said. “I’ve been using [the first $910] for my siblings and helping provide more educational materials, as well as just using it for everyday use, like food and stuff, especially during this pandemic.”