Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund Program (CARES Act)

Student studying with laptop in lap.

 

University of South Alabama students are eligible to apply for emergency financial assistance grants through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF), made possible through the Coronavirus Assistance, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. These grants do not need to be paid back, but students must apply to receive a grant.

In addition to the requirements outlined in the FAQ below, all grant recipients must be Title IV eligible, which requires them to have a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) on file for the 2019-20 academic year. 

To ensure consideration for funding students should complete the application by the priority deadline date of May 18, 2020.  Once the priority deadline has passed, applications will continue to be accepted until May 29, 2020. Applications submitted after the priority deadline date will be processed in the order they are received and emergency grants will continue to be awarded until funds are exhausted.

Click here to view the email sent to students on May 5, 2020, about the application process.

For questions not covered in the FAQs, please contact the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund contact team at HEERF@southalabama.edu

FAQs for Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund

▼   What is the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund?

The recently enacted Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was passed by Congress and signed into law, provides funding to colleges and universities through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF). These funds allow institutions to provide emergency financial grants to students for specific expenses, related to cost of attendance, that were a direct result of the disruption of campus operations due to the national COVID-19 pandemic. 

We know that many of our students are struggling financially through this global health crisis. USA is currently developing a plan to equitably distribute these funds, following Department of Education guidelines. This emergency aid will become available for students that meet the HEERF eligibility guidelines and who were currently enrolled at USA at the time of disruption. These funds are meant to assist students with their unexpected expenses and stay on track to earn their degree as planned. 

▼   Who can apply for the funds?

To be eligible students must, at the time of the campus disruption (March 13, 2020):

  • have been an undergraduate or graduate student;
  • enrolled in a degree-seeking program;
  • who are or could be eligible to apply for Title IV funds;
  • must not have been exclusively taking online courses (prior to the campus disruption date). 

USA will distribute the HEERF funding in a way that prioritizes students with the greatest demonstrated need and ensures that funds are distributed as widely as possible.

 

▼   What does it mean to be eligible for Title IV funds?

The Department of Education requires that students meet federal financial aid eligibility requirements to qualify for the HEERF assistance.

Title IV eligibility includes:

  • Must have a high school diploma or equivalent, such as a GED, or completion of high school in an approved homeschool setting.
  • Must be working on an approved degree or certificate that is at least 24 credits in length.
  • Must be a U.S. citizen, or permanent resident.
  • Must have been enrolled in on-campus classes - students enrolled in all online coursework will not be eligible.
  • Must not be in default of a federal student loan or owe a repayment of a federal grant.
  • Must register with the Selective Service if a male, and at least 18 years old.
  • Must be enrolled at least half-time.
  • Must be in Satisfactory Academic standing (SAP). For more information on SAP guidelines please visit the USA Financial Aid website.

 

If you already have a completed the FAFSA for the 2019-2020 academic year, you have already demonstrated eligibility for Title IV and you do not need to complete it again.

If you did not complete the FAFSA for the academic year 2019-2020 the last date to do so is June 30, 2020. However, based on the limited funds available we recommend completing as soon as possible.

▼   How can I apply?

Students may complete the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund application in their PAWS account. 

To apply:

  • Click here to log in to your student single sign on
  • Select PAWS from the directory
  • Select the “Student Services & Financial Aid” tab
  • Select the “Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund” application link

The priority deadline date for this application is May 18, 2020. 

▼   How will funds be allocated?

USA will distribute the HEERF funding in a way that prioritizes students with the greatest demonstrated need and ensures that funds are distributed as widely as possible.

▼   Will I be notified of my award status?

Students will be notified a number of times over the course of this process.

  • Students will be notified when their application has been submitted successfully. 
  • Students will be notified of their eligibility when their application has been processed.
  • Students will be notified if an award is processed.

All notifications will be sent to a students JagMail account. 

▼   If I did not file a FAFSA, may I still do so?

If you are eligible to file a FAFSA but have not yet filed for the 2019-2020 academic year you may do so at studentaid.gov.

The last date to file your 2019-2020 FAFSA is June 30, 2020. However, based on the limited funds available we recommend filing as soon as possible. 

You may still complete the HEERF application through USA, and when your FAFSA information is completed your application will be reviewed. 

▼   Who is not eligible to apply?

Per the the U.S. Department of Education regulations, only students who are, or could be, eligible to participate in Title IV funding may receive funds through the HEERF program. If a student has a completed the 19/20 FAFSA then the student has demonstrated basic eligibility.

These same regulations prohibit International students, undocumented students, those not enrolled at the time of the campus disruption (March 13, 2020), or students enrolled in distance-only degree programs from receiving funds through the HEERF program. 

If you are a student from one of these groups, there may be other types of emergency aid you may apply for. To speak with a student aid advocate about your options complete the South Cares application.

▼   How much can I expect to receive?

Schools received a limited amount of funding from the CARES Act. For students applying for emergency aid, grant amounts will be determined based on the number of applications received and the specific need based on the application data and the students financial aid profile.

▼   How will these funds be disbursed?

In most cases a student will receive these funds one time. Funds will be awarded through the student account. 

Please be sure your Electronic Direct Deposit (EDD) information is up to date. EDD allows delivery of aid and/or student emergency stipends and support to be processed directly to your bank account. EDD also eliminates delays due to address problems with student checks and helps you avoid a trip to the bank. You can verify your EDD information by following five easy steps. 

  • Click here to log in to your student single sign on
  • Select PAWS from the directory
  • Click Student Services and Financial Aid
  • Click Student Records
  • Click Direct Deposit Information (Enter Banking Information)
▼   How was the allocation to USA determined?

USA was provided with an allocation relative to the proportion of Pell Grant applicants at higher education institutions, as well as the number of students enrolling for both undergraduate and graduate programs. Half of all of the HEERF funds allocated to institutions through the CARES Act must be provided as emergency grants to students for specific expenses that were a direct result of the disruption of campus operations due to the national COVID-19 pandemic. These expenses may include any component of the student’s cost of attendance such as: housing, food, course materials, health care, child care, and technology-related expenses.

▼   Do the funds need to be repaid?

No, this is not a loan. The funds are given to students in need, to use towards basic or academic needs.

▼   Can this funding reduce my financial aid?

No, these funds are exempt from the maximum financial aid amount students may receive.

▼   Can I apply for funding more than once?

Only one application is required. If funds remain available for future awarding USA will reopen the process, but a second application will not be necessary. 

▼   Is there a deadline to apply?

To ensure consideration for funding students should complete the application by the priority deadline date of May 18, 2020.

If after all applications are processed funds remain, awarding may continue.

 

▼   What should I do if I am not sure my expenses would be covered by the HEERF program?

We encourage all students with need, that meet the basic eligibility requirements as outlined, complete the HEERF application. There will be an opportunity in the application for students to provide information on how the COVID-19 pandemic and campus disruption has impacted their lives. 

▼   I am graduating this term (Spring 2020). Am I still eligible to apply?

If you are otherwise eligible under the HEERF Department of Education guidelines above, and were enrolled as of the March 13, 2020 campus disruption date, you are eligible to apply. 

▼   Why was I not funded at the amount I expected?

All applications submitted by the priority deadline date will be evaluated individually and the amount provided will be based on the level of unmet need (based on the students aid package and unmet need for 19/20) and the funding available. 

▼   Who can I contact for more information?
If you have questions about the HEERF program not covered here, please contact the USA One Stop HEERF team at heerf@southalabama.edu