category: Advisory

Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF) Information

Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act Student Assistance – HEERF I

On April 9th, the U.S. Department of Education (“DOE”) informed Gardner-Webb University that it would be receiving $1,825,407 in total Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act assistance. Approximately half of those funds ($912,704) were designated by the DOE to be disbursed directly to students who have been impacted by campus changes due to COVID-19.

According to the DOE, disbursements are for “the direct payment of grants to students for their expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus, such as food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and child-care.” Consistent with the DOE guidelines, the payments will go first to displaced residential students with or without meal plans and to commuter students with meal plans.

As of May 1st, Gardner-Webb had received $912,704 under the CARES Act student portion. As of May 4th, 2020, the first distribution date, $855,600 was distributed to eligible students.  As of May 19th, 2020 the remaining $57,104 had been distributed. All $912,704 has been distributed to 753 eligible students as of May 20th, 2020.

As of May 20th, 2020, Gardner-Webb University has certified that it signed and returned the Certification and Agreement form required by the DOE, and that the institution has used the CARES Act funds to provide the mandated amount of at least 50% of the emergency financial aid grants to students.

At Gardner-Webb University, 2,523 students for spring 2020 were deemed eligible by the Department of Education guidelines to participate in programs under Section 484 in Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965. Of those, 1,007 students met eligibility requirements for the funds and were therefore eligible to receive emergency financial aid grants.

GWU distributed these funds to a class of students who it determined had incurred additional monetary expenses due to campus disruption caused by the corona virus and were deemed eligible by DOE guidelines. This class consisted of those students who did not return to the residence halls and/or had lost access to meals on campus during the time period commencing at the close of Spring Break 2020, March 17th through the end of the Spring 2020 semester, May 8th. These students needed to secure alternate housing and/or meals, for which they incurred additional expenses.

Finally, although the great majority of on-campus students did not return to the residence halls after Spring Break, some exceptions were made by student requests due to extenuating circumstances. All student requests to remain on campus were granted. The students allowed to remain in campus housing after Spring Break and have access to meals on campus did not receive CARES funds

As required by the DOE, the University provided the funds directly to qualified students. The University did not provide any directives to the recipients concerning how they should spend their awards. The University published a dedicated Coronavirus website on February 28th to provide regular, public information regarding the response and practices surrounding the Coronavirus pandemic as well as links to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other heath websites as appropriate. 

The website also provides several FAQ sections.

The University’s combined efforts to offer economic relief to students as of May 20th include Emergency Relief Grants from CARES in the amount of $912,704, Flex account refunds totaling $122,626 and GWU Emergency Funds raised in the past month of $25,143; a total of $1,060,473.79.

On May 28, 2020, the University made the decision to utilize the institutional portion of the CARES Act funding to offer additional assistance to our students who met DOE requirements.  The second CARES Act distribution that was classified as institutional funds was used to reimburse the institution for student account credits made to qualifying residential students or commuter students with meal plans (163 students and $306,422); fund additional cash grants to those students who qualified for and received emergency relief grants from the University’s first CARES Act distribution (751 students and $583,091); and fund cash grants to our eligible commuter students who completed an application and submitted documentation related to expenses incurred due to the disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus, such as food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and child-care (20 students and $23,190).

 With these final distributions, as of June 19, 2020 Gardner-Webb’s total allocation $1,825,407 of CARES Act funding has been distributed directly to our students through cash grants or has benefited our students through student account credits reimbursed to the institution by these funds. 

Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriation Act 2021 (CRRSAA) – HEERF II

Update as of June 2021

Under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act 2021 (CRRSAA, HEERF II), Gardner-Webb University has been allocated funds designated for “preparing for, preventing, and responding to coronavirus.”  A portion of these funds have been designated as emergency financial aid grants to students.  The Department of Education identified the minimum amount each institution must reserve for emergency grants to students.  According to the DOE, “these funds must be reserved to provide students with financial aid grants, which may be used for any component of the student’s cost of attendance or for emergency costs that arise due to coronavirus, such as tuition, food, housing, health care (including mental health care) or child care.” Unlike the CARES Act, the CRRSAA requires that institutions prioritize students with “exceptional need, such as students who receive Pell Grants”, in awarding financial aid grants to students. 

Gardner-Webb University signed and returned the Certification and Agreement to the U.S. Department of Education on April 22, 2020 for the HEERF I funds.  This signed agreement remains in effect for all additional HEERF fund allocations.  The University has used HEERF II funds to provide the mandated amount of financial aid grants to students. 

Gardner-Webb University’s HEERF II allocation is $3,022,376, with at least $912,704 of this amount designated for emergency financial aid grants to students. 

At the time of awarding, the estimated number of students eligible to be considered for an emergency financial aid grant was 3,325.  A total of 1849 grants were awarded.

Cash grants were awarded to undergraduate students based on Pell Grant eligibility for spring 2021 as well as the federally calculated Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) for the 2020/21 award year.  This calculation is determined by the Department of Education by filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  If students did not file or did not complete the 2020/21 application process in its entirety by the award date, the University still considered the student for a minimal cash grant because of incurred expenses related to attendance at GWU.   A formula utilizing EFC and Pell Grant eligibility was used with grants ranging from $100 to $1575.  Thus, grant amounts were student specific.

Students were notified of the grant award via email.  Grants were then disbursed through direct deposit or check mailed to the home address on file based on the disbursement method students had previously selected. 

American Rescue Plan Act 2021 (ARPA) – HEERF III

Update as of June 30, 2021

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA, HEERF III) was signed into law on March 11, 2021.  With some changes, the ARPA is a continuation of the CRRSAA programs.  Gardner-Webb University was notified of its allocation on May 19, 2021. 

Gardner-Webb University’s HEERF III allocation is $5,254,321, with at least $2,756,483 of this amount designated for emergency financial aid grants to students. 

The University is reviewing requirements related to the use of these funds.  Additional information will be forthcoming.

Update as of August 31, 2021

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 was approved by Congress and signed into law on March 11, 2021. Similar to the two previous HEERF awards, funding will be used to provide emergency grants to students who may be struggling financially during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as to reimburse institutions for pandemic-related expenses.

Gardner-Webb University signed and returned the Certification and Agreement to the U.S. Department of Education on April 22, 2020 for the HEERF I funds.  This signed agreement remains in effect for all additional HEERF fund allocations. 

The total allocation that the University received for the emergency financial aid grants to be issued to students under the ARP Act is $2,756,483. The funds were made available to the University on May 19, 2021.

The Department of Education identified the minimum amount each institution must reserve for emergency grants to students.  According to the DOE, institutions are required “to prioritize students with exceptional need, such as students who receive Pell Grants or are undergraduates with extraordinary financial circumstances, in awarding emergency financial aid grants to students.

Beyond Pell eligibility, other types of exceptional need could include students who may be eligible for other federal or state need-based aid or have faced significant unexpected expenses either for themselves or that would affect their financial circumstances, such as the loss of employment, reduced income, or food or housing insecurity. In addition, both the CRRSAA and ARP explicitly state that emergency financial aid grants to students may be provided to students exclusively “….for any component of the student’s cost of attendance or for emergency costs that arise due to coronavirus, such as tuition, food, housing, health care (including mental health care) or child care.”

The estimated number of students eligible for HEERF III cash grants since the time of disruption, March 13, 2020, is 6,276.  As of August 31st, 16 students have received cash grants totaling $93,712.

For the first phase of awarding, an application link was sent to students that identified a financial hardship to the Financial Planning, Student Accounts, or Retention Offices.  The application asked students to identify the hardship and what expenses had been incurred since March 13, 2020.  Based on the application responses and amount requested, documentation may have been required.  Once students were determined to be eligible for a cash grant, a subsequent request form was sent for students to identity if they wished any portion to be applied to their student account or if they wished to receive all of the grant as a cash grant. 

Students were notified via email and received cash grants through direct deposit if this payment option had been previously selected or by check mailed to the home address on file with the University.

Update as of September 30, 2021

The University continued Phase I, application-based, awarding of HEERF III cash grants through early September.  The estimated number of students eligible for HEERF cash grants since the time of disruption, March 13, 2020 remains at 6,276.  As of September 30th, 19 students have been awarded cash grants totaling $112,303. 

The University plans to begin Phase II, distribution to all students, awarding of HEERF III cash grants in early October.  According to the DOE, institutions are required “to prioritize students with exceptional need, such as students who receive Pell Grants or are undergraduates with extraordinary financial circumstances, in awarding emergency financial aid grants to students.

Additional information will be forthcoming with subsequent phases and plans for awarding.

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