On April 1, 2022, Whittier College announced via email that they were finally able to allocate $2,523,026 in COVID-19 relief funds to students through the American Rescue Plan (APR) after a long delay. According to Associate Director of the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs (ORSP), Lisa Newton, the reason for the delay “was the result of the U.S. Department of Education’s confusion regarding the closure of the Whittier Law School in 2020 and numerous changes in the Program Officers assigned to our HEERF grants. It took several months to resolve the matter during which there was no access to the federal [Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds].” Additionally, they are not aware whether or not other Institutes of Higher Education experienced similar delays.
The American Rescue Plan was signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 11, 2021, which has made HEERF I, HEERF II, and HEERF III possible during the pandemic to aid institutions of higher education and students. Because COVID-19 first disrupted institutions in 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provided funds through HEERF I to help students mitigate the financial toll the pandemic caused by using the funds for “food, housing, course materials, technology, healthcare, childcare expenses, and other expenses.” In 2020, Whittier College received $1,879,550 and “assured that no less than 50% of that amount (939,775) will be used [to] provide Emergency Financial Grants to students.” In 2021, these funds continued through HEERF II and Whittier College received $939,775 to distribute to students.
The APR granted over $39.6 billion for this year’s The Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund III (HEERF III), of which Whittier College received $2,523,095 for the institution — apart from the aid given to students. The college recieved an additional $313,449 to cover the costs generated from the pandemic, conduct activities to support students, and disburse more relief funds to students. Other emergency funds for institutions and students, which amount to a total of $76.2 billion include those authorized by the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021 (CRRSAA), and the Coronavirus Aid, Recovery, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Similar to previous rounds of funding, students in need of greater financial support are prioritized. The Department of Education encourages prioritizing domestic undergraduates. Those who are Pell Grant recipients will be the first to receive a minimum of $3,000 and a maximum of $3,500, while Non-Pell Grant recipients may receive a minimum of $500 and a maximum of $2,750. In contrast to previous rounds, students who did not complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, which include “citizens, permanent residents, refugees, asylum seekers, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients, other DREAMers, and similar undocumented students,” may also be eligible to receive relief grants along with international students.
In addition to Pell Grant status for the 2021-‘22 academic year, “Unmet Need as calculated by the Office of Financial Aid which factors in Cost of Attendance, Expected Family Contribution, and Need-based and Merit Aid” affects the amount of aid a student receives. Students can choose how to use their funds through a number of options which include covering expenses for “any component of their cost of attendance or for emergency costs that arise due to COVID-19, such as tuition, food, housing, health care (including mental health care) or child care.”
Students will have the option of choosing from methods of receiving the funds and will not have to repay the money. Furthermore, HEERF Emergency Grants are not taxable and will not have an impact on other financial aid. Those who are eligible to receive relief funds received, or will receive, an email over the course of several weeks. However, funds will be distributed to other students who need financial support if a student does not respond by a specific date.
For more information regarding eligibility and FAQs visit https://www.whittier.edu/covid19/heerf.