Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
Q. What is the CARES Act/HEERF?
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act is federal legislation which provides a variety of financial support to individuals and businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The CARES Act established and funded the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) to provide emergency funding to higher education institutions. A portion of each institution’s allocation must be awarded to students in the form of emergency financial aid grants (“CARES Act emergency grants”) for expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to the COVID-19 crisis. Students who meet eligibility requirements as set forth by the Department of Education and who demonstrate the greatest need may receive assistance from this fund.
Q. Who is eligible to be considered for a CARES Act emergency grant?
On April 21, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education released guidance on student eligibility and allowable uses of CARES Act emergency grants. Per that guidance, students must meet Title IV eligibility requirements in order to receive a CARES Act emergency grant. As a result, all applicants must have a 2019-20 FASFA on file with the MDC Office of Financial Aid, and meet Title IV eligibility criteria (see Q&A below). If you are eligible to file a FAFSA but have not yet filed and need assistance, please file a FAFSA at studentaid.gov.
Unfortunately, the Department’s guidance means that ineligible students include, but are not limited to, dual enrollee, international, DACA, non-credit and non-degree seeking student, as well as students not meeting financial aid standards of academic progress. The U.S. Department of Education has also stated that those students who were enrolled in 100% online programs as of March 13, 2020 are not eligible to receive CARES Act funds.
Q. What is the Title IV eligibility criteria?
Section 484 of the HEA states that Title IV eligible students must:
- Be enrolled or accepted for enrollment in a degree or certificate program.
- Not be enrolled in elementary or secondary school.
- For currently enrolled students, be making satisfactory academic progress.
- Not owe an overpayment on Title IV grants or loans.
- Not be in default on a Title IV loan.
- File “as part of the original financial aid application process” a certification that includes: a statement of educational purpose and student’s SSN.
- Be a U.S. citizen or national, permanent resident, or other eligible noncitizen.
- Have returned fraudulently obtained Title IV funds if convicted of or pled guilty or no contest to charges.
- Not have fraudulently received Title IV loans in excess of annual or aggregate limits.
- Have repaid Title IV loan amounts in excess of annual or aggregate limits if obtained inadvertently.
- Have Selective Service registration verified.
- Have Social Security Number verified.
- Not have a federal or state conviction for drug possession or sale, with certain time limitations.
Q. What are eligible expenses for a CARES Act emergency grant?
Eligible expenses are those expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to Covid-19 (including eligible expenses under a student’s cost of attendance, such as food, housing, course materials, technology, healthcare, and child-care expenses). Applicants are required to confirm that they incurred eligible expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to COVID-19.
Q. How much will each eligible student receive as a CARES Act emergency grant?
Under the U.S. Department of Education guidance, eligible students (with eligible expenses) who demonstrate the greatest need will be prioritized to receive assistance through the CARES Act emergency grants. These funds are limited, are not guaranteed, and requests may not be granted. MDC will process the applications in the order in which they are received.
Q. If I received a CARES Act emergency grant, is this grant includible in my gross income?
The Internal Revenue Services has issued the following guidance: Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund and Emergency Financial Aid Grants under the CARES Act
Q. How will funds be released?
Funds will be released based on your previously selected Financial Aid disbursement method.
Q. If I receive CARES Act emergency grant and have an outstanding balance, will the funds be applied to those charges?
No. Balances owed on student accounts will not be deducted from the CARES Act emergency grant funds. Any balance on the account is still the responsibility of the student.
Q. If I receive a CARES Act emergency grant, is it considered financial aid?
No, CARES Act emergency grants are not considered financial aid awarded to you and will not affect your financial aid cost of attendance.
All information provided is subject to change pending additional guidance/clarification from the Department of Education.