Special Coronavirus Bulletin # 11: Trump Administration Imposes Limits on Federally-Funded Emergency Grants

We recently reported that thousands, if not millions of federal dollars were allocated to your postsecondary school for emergency grants to help students cover certain expenses. But just last week the Trump administration’s Education Department (ED) issued guidance limiting eligibility for these grants. Based on this guidance and the law that made the federal funds available, here are things you need to know.

Student Eligibility

The law is simple and straightforward. It says these federally-funded emergency grants are available to any student. However, ED’s new guidance limits eligibility for these grants to students eligible to participate in the federal student financial aid and loan programs. In general, this means you must be:

1. A U.S. citizen, national, or permanent resident;

2. Eligible to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) — if you’ve not yet filed a FAFSA, do so, because that’s the only sure way to prove you’re eligible to file it;

3. Enrolled or accepted for enrollment in a program leading to a certificate, degree, or some other recognized educational credential;

4. Registered for selective service (if you’re male).

5. Not currently in default on a federal student loan, or not currently owing a refund on a federal grant; and

6. Making Satisfactory Academic Progress toward your certificate, degree, or other credential (if you’re already enrolled).

Payable Expenses

The law says your federally-funded emergency grant may be used for “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 childcare).”

ED added that such a grant cannot be used to pay off outstanding and overdue bills you owe to your school, and your school can’t use federal emergency grant money to reimburse itself for expenses it ran up for you — even if they’re because of a coronavirus-related campus disruption.

Expiration Date

The law says federal emergency grant funds remain available through September 30, 2021, so you may be able to get such a grant through that date — although your school is likely to run out of its federal allocation long before that.

Delivery of Funds

ED has ruled that your school may provide these grant funds to you by check, debit card, electronic transfer to your bank account, or any other application it uses to transmit your regular federal student aid and loan funds. ED also ruled that your school cannot issue such funds to you using a credit card that’s accepted only on campus or at an institutionally-affiliated retail establishments (bookstores, athletic apparel shops, etc.).

If you have a financial predicament, but something described above makes you ineligible for a federally-funded emergency grant, what should you do? Request emergency financial help from your school anyway, because some postsecondary institutions also have other funding sources for emergency grants.

Struggling to pay expenses related to education after high school? College Affordability Solutions has 42 years experience in helping to keep postsecondary learning within the means of students and families. Contact us at (512) 366-5354 or collegeafford@gmail.com if you need some advice — no charge!

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