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FAQs: Federal CARES Act at W&M

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act allocated federal money to colleges and universities for emergency grants to students to help cover expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus. William & Mary was allocated $1.97 million for disbursement to students.


What is the CARES/Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund?
When will CARES Act funding be available?
Am I eligible to receive CARES Act funds? How can I check if I am eligible?
How was the disbursement plan formulated?
What does “Title IV eligible” and “have financial need” mean?
Why didn’t I receive CARES Act funds?
Who should I contact about my eligibility for the CARES Act fund?
If I did not qualify to receive CARES Act funds, are there other emergency relief funds available?
Will CARES Act funding be applied to students' outstanding balances?
How will I receive CARES Act funding?
How do I sign up for direct deposit?
Can my CARES Act funds roll over into future semesters? 
Are CARES Act funds taxable?
 

What is the CARES/Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund?

The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act was enacted on March 27, 2020. Totaling more than $2 trillion, the economic relief package was passed with the intention of protecting Americans from the public health and economic impacts of COVID-19. Included in that legislation was roughly $12.5 billion in federal aid available to the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund.

When will CARES Act funding be available?

In early April, the U.S. Department of Education released information to institutions of higher education regarding the amounts the schools could expect to receive as well as guidelines for distribution. William & Mary certified to the federal government its intended distribution plan later that month. We anticipate distributing the funds, in the amount of $1.97 million, in early June.

Am I eligible to receive CARES Act funds? How can I check if I am eligible?

The CARES Act requires that recipients of this federal aid meet all of the eligibility requirements for federal Title IV funds as an undergraduate or as a graduate or professional student. In accordance with the guidance provided by the U.S. Secretary of Education, William & Mary has elected to prioritize Pell Grant recipients and students with documented financial need. These students were sent email messages on May 7 notifying them of their eligibility and requesting certification they have borne additional expenses that are the direct result of disruptions created by COVID-19.

How was the disbursement plan formulated?

Understanding how important these resources may be for those with acute needs, William & Mary has worked swiftly. The federal government provided some latitude to institutions in distributing CARES Act funding but urged institutions to consider students with need and to disburse funds quickly. After consultation with expert staff in student affairs, the financial aid office, IT, and finance, W&M moved swiftly to deliver help to many students experiencing serious financial distress as a result of the disruption brought on by COVID-19.

Because the number of Pell-eligible students at William & Mary was used by the federal government to calculate the amount of funding the university received, William & Mary prioritized those students in its disbursement plans; those students were eligible for $1,000 payments. Next were students whom the university already knew had demonstrated financial need based on their 2019-2020 status; they were eligible to receive payments of $500. Prioritizing these students allowed William & Mary quickly to deploy the funds to the students whom we knew had the greatest financial need.

William & Mary recognizes that the novel coronavirus pandemic may have created financial distress for students who did not have demonstrated financial need in the current school year. Students who did not have financial need in the 2019-2020 academic year may become eligible for aid this fall as a result of changes to their financial circumstances.

What does “Title IV eligible” and “have financial need” mean?

Please visit the financial aid office website for guidelines on eligibility requirements for federal Title IV funds as an undergraduate or as a graduate or professional student.

For purposes of eligibility for a CARES payment, having financial need means having qualified for financial aid in the 2019-2020 school year and having incurred expenses related to the disruption of campus operations.

Why didn’t I receive CARES Act funds?

Only Pell grant recipients and other students (both undergraduate and graduate or professional students) who qualified for Title IV funding and had documented financial need for the 2019-2020 school year were eligible for immediate payment. Students enrolled in online programs are not eligible, per federal guidelines. Furthermore, CARES Act funds were not distributed automatically. Pell grant recipients and students with documented financial need were asked to certify their eligibility and that they have borne additional expenses as a result of the disruptions created by COVID-19.

Who should I contact about my eligibility for the CARES Act fund?

Questions may be directed to [[aid,Financial Aid]]

If I did not qualify to receive CARES Act funds, are there other emergency relief funds available?

Students who do not meet federal Title IV eligibility requirements but have coronavirus-related expenses may still be eligible for support via private dollars raised for this purpose. Already William & Mary has provided roughly $80,000 in COVID-19 relief to students from the Health Emergency and Resources for the Tribe (HEART) Fund and donor-funded sources, and we will continue to do so. Eligible categories for funding from the HEART fund are food, transportation, lodging, healthcare and medications, and educational expenses.

Will CARES Act funding be applied to the student’s outstanding balances?

No. The federal funding is intended to provide emergency direct payments to students with financial need who incurred expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to the coronavirus pandemic.

How will I receive CARES Act funding?

CARES Act funding will be disbursed by direct deposit. If you do not provide direct deposit information, the funding will be processed as a physical check and sent to the mailing address designated in your student account.

How do I sign up for direct deposit?

Visit the refunds page in Financial Operations for instructions.

Can my CARES Act funds roll over into future semesters?  

No.

Are CARES Act funds taxable?

According to IRS guidelines, emergency payments to students are not taxable. Under current guidance, however, they are reportable on the 1098-T.