Georgetown set to distribute CARES Act funding, donor money amid financial losses

May 8, 2020

Illustration by Deborah Han

Georgetown will be accepting the just over $6 million in funding it was eligible for as part of the CARES Act and distributing half of it to students, the university announced on May 8. Undergraduate students with an expected family contribution below $15,000 each year will receive a grant of $2,600. An additional $300,000 of the money has been set aside to aid graduate students. The university hopes to distribute the money by May 15. 

The CARES Act, a bill passed in late March to provide relief to families and businesses affected by the coronavirus included grants for universities that receive federal funding. The announcement comes at a time of financial distress for many students and families who have lost income due to the COVID-19 crisis. Most college students are not eligible for a stimulus check from the government, meaning the money distributed by Georgetown will be their only financial relief. Though the university issued refunds for housing and meal plans not used by students who left campus, the amount was only a return on what students actually paid and thus not significant for many students on financial aid. 

Georgetown itself has already lost $25 million in efforts to mitigate the effects of the crisis according to a university spokesperson, due to actions such as providing partial refunds, continuing to pay student employees, covering storage costs, and aiding students to return home or stay on campus. 

Because the CARES Act is federal money, it cannot be distributed to help international or undocumented students, as they are not eligible for federal financial aid. Therefore, the university pledged that students who cannot receive federal funding but have an expected family contribution below $15,000 will receive a cash transfer of $2,600 from university funds. 

Those students who will not automatically qualify for a cash transfer under this framework or who require more aid can apply to the Covid-19 Crisis Response Fund for a grant up to $1000 intended to cover emergency expenses. Grants will be given to cover costs incurred by virtual learning, emergency travel, moving and storage costs, COVID-19 health care expenses, and additional rent and food costs. Applications will be open to all undergraduate and graduate students in degree programs on the Main Campus, School of Continuing Studies and Georgetown University Medical Center, with a second fund available for law students. The fund currently has about $150,000. 

A separate fund has been set up by the graduate student government that is currently valued at $35,000. 

These funds are aimed to take some pressure off Georgetown Scholars Program (GSP) grants, which have been heavily applied to since March. While these grants are intended to help GSP students, students outside the program have been applying for grants in hopes to get aid. 

The second half of the money received from the CARES Act, another $3 million, can be used for institutional needs. Georgetown has not yet noted in what capacity this will be spent, and the university was unable to be reached for comment at the current time.  Students are urging it be spent in a way that will benefit the returning students, according to Nicole Sanchez (SFS ’22), a representative for GSP who has been meeting with the university about the response effort. 

Georgetown is also attempting to ensure all students who have a summer work requirement as part of their financial aid package will be able to fulfill that contribution, whether or not they have a job. Approximately 2000 undergraduates have a summer job requirement, meaning they are expected to contribute $2500 to the cost of school with income earned from working over the summer. With the current uncertainty of the job market, the university has had talks about potentially covering this requirement with a tuition discount. This would create the need for up to $5 million in further funds, so the university has yet to commit to the discount. 

In a meeting with GUSA, members of the university administration mentioned the hope for continued donations from alumni to cover continued expenses such as the job requirement. 

Some university employers are giving priority in summer hiring to students who have federal work-study or the summer savings expectation, according to an email obtained by the Voice. Priority is also being given to students who have already received a commitment for a job or summer stipend or who are being supported by active grant funding. 

Students still on campus have been asked to move out if possible when the semester ends, but the university has said they are not planning to kick anyone out, according to Sanchez. Further updates on summer jobs and housing are expected in the coming weeks. 

While the funds made available will make a difference for many students, the university and students handling the response are aware it may not be sufficient, and that new solutions to financial difficulties for both individual students and the university may be on the horizon. 

“Even with the funds that are coming from the government it’s still not enough,” Sanchez said.“But we hope it’s something that can hold us over while we try our hardest to get more.”

Annemarie Cuccia
Annemarie is an avid Voice reader and former editor-in-chief. She hopes she left the magazine better than she found it.

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