COVID-19 grants and relief pay benefit students

HR and Student Finance are located in Wright Hall. Thursday, September 20, 2021.
(Photo by: Xander Ordinola)
HR and Student Finance are located in Wright Hall. Thursday, September 20, 2021. (Photo by: Xander Ordinola)

Within the past couple of weeks, many students at Southern Adventist University received two emails regarding financial assistance. 

The first email, sent by Student Finance, said Southern had begun the process of passing out the second round of emergency grants provided by the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) III program. Students can receive the grants directly or apply them to their student accounts, according to the email. 

The second email, sent by Student Employment Coordinator for Human Resources Allison Maitland, informed student employees that they could receive pay for missed work hours if they were quarantined or isolated this school year.

According to Senior Vice President for Financial Administration Tom Verrill, Southern received approximately $6.7 million in HEERF III funding at the end of May. The government required that 50% be given directly to students. 

During the summer, approximately 20% of this student portion, $670,000, was distributed as emergency grants. Approximately 40%, $1.35 million, is being distributed in the same way this semester, as explained in the aforementioned email sent by Student Finance. Verrill said the remaining 40% will be distributed as emergency grants next semester. 

“We believe that many students will continue to be impacted by the pandemic throughout the 2021-22 academic year,” director of Student Finance Paula Walters stated in an email to the Accent. “And, having this resource available in multiple disbursements will be beneficial to students.”

According to Associate Vice President of Financial Administration Doug Frood, students received similar grants in the past two school years from the first two HEERF programs, and all three programs have been extremely beneficial.

“I can see several ramifications going on in our data that tells me students have been significantly using this money on their accounts to put themselves in a better position,” Frood said. “That’s been exciting because, coming from an accounts receivable standpoint from what students owe, we’re probably in about as good a position as we’ve ever been.”

According to Frood, students can expect to receive their grants this week if they filled out the form attached in the email sent by Student Finance. If students do not fill out the form, Southern will redistribute the allocations to other students. 

Frood added that the amount each student receives is determined by the government’s calculation of their financial need based on their Free Application for Federal Student Aid forms. He said students will receive the same amount next semester; however, if a student’s financial need increases, they should speak to a Student Finance counselor to see if they are eligible for more. Students will again have the choice next semester to receive grants directly or apply them to their student accounts, and they should receive grants within the first month.

Verrill said the 50% of the HEERF III funding not going to students has been used to cover COVID-19-related expenses from the last few years, such as costs for testing and extra University Health Center personnel, as well as revenues lost due to COVID-19. According to Walters, the COVID-19 relief pay for quarantined and isolated student employees also comes from this portion.

Maitland’s email said students must be actively employed at Southern and miss scheduled work hours while in quarantine or isolated to qualify for this pay. Students also need to communicate with their work supervisors to initiate the process. Maitland added in the email that relief pay can be issued retroactively if students request to be paid no later than December 18. 

In an email to the Accent, Maitland said relief pay for student employees was offered last school year and given to approximately 205 students. As of September 17, 16 students were set up to receive relief pay for this school year, according to Maitland. 

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