CARES Act Funds received: Most students to be granted financial help amid the pandemic

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Photo courtesy of Cal State LA archives

Denae Ayala, Staff Reporter

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Cal State LA has received and will be distributing at least $18.9 million to most students registered at the university.

According to an email sent out on Thursday from President William A. Covino’s office, Cal State LA confirmed that the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds have been received and will be distributed to students either through direct deposit — if their GET account is set up as such — or through the mail. 

The email did not state how much each student is eligible for, but said, “grants are based on each student’s financial need as reflected in financial aid documents.”

According to the email, most students will receive a minimum amount of assistance without filling out an application form.

Cal State LA received a total amount of $37.9 million in emergency funding from the federal government’s CARES Act. According to the act, half of its allotted grant must go to the students within its university.

According to USA Today, DACA recipients may not be eligible for allocated CARES Act funds as they are not allowed access to federal grants.

In addition, Cal State LA is providing a separate grant to eligible students with a maximum of $500 through the university’s Emergency Grant Program.

To get approved for Cal State LA’s Emergency Grant Program, students must be enrolled in a degree or credential program and fill out a form online. 

The form includes questions related to the students’ financial needs and how their circumstances have impacted their schooling.

Students should expect questions such as: 

  • Describe in detail the serious, unexpected, extenuating circumstances beyond your control that have led to your financial need, and how these circumstances have impacted your schooling. 
  • Share the steps you plan to take to resolve or improve your situation.
  • How do you plan to use the funds? Provide a specific breakdown. How will they further your education goals?
  • Are you currently employed?

Graduate student and small business owner Michelle Fanara said she was previously denied the school emergency grant when she filled out the application on April 6.

On April 22, she said she received an email from Director of Student Support Robert Yonemoto stating she had been approved.

“I don’t even understand how my name got put back in the mix after I was denied…I was beginning to wonder what my next step was going to be,” said Fanara. 

When asked about Fanara’s application process via email, Yonemoto redirected the UT to Jennifer Miller, associate vice president for student life and dean of students. She encouraged students with inquiries regarding their grant applications to reach out to the Office of the Dean of Students.

Fanara felt the questions on the form were fair, but she didn’t think the verification process was. 

“Everything was based on needs prior to this emergency. My business was declared non essential, so my needs changed,” Fanara said.

Fanara owns and operates Villari Martial Arts in Duarte, where she teaches her students the art of Shalin Kempo and creates KempoFit workouts each week.

As a result of the pandemic, Fanara said she has lost 80 percent of her students, but does not qualify for any Small Business Administration aid.

“Some students will do martial arts and fitness on Zoom, but a lot won’t.” 

Miller, in an email, said the school’s emergency grant program existed before COVID-19. She also said that Cal State LA received over 2,000 applications for emergency grants and paid out $208,000 since the pandemic started.

Applications are still being processed and grants will continue to be distributed, [they] are reviewed through an interactive process in the order that they have been received and staff contact students to discuss their needs. If students do not respond after multiple requests, their applications are put on hold so that staff can begin assisting other students,” she said.

In Fanara’s approval email, she said she was given two days to respond to a list of additional questions regarding her employment status.

Miller stated funding for this program is supported by donations and basic needs allocations from the state. 

Additional requirements for students vary, some may receive their funds faster than others, but Miller assures staff will provide aid as quickly as possible.

“Students do not need to exhaust other financial aid to receive a grant. Some students have been asked to contact Financial Aid to discuss making adjustments that would allow them to be able to receive more assistance. No students have been denied grants for financial aid reasons without being provided options.”

Like Fanara, Cal State LA student Tommy Lam has also been approved for the $500 emergency grant. 

Lam’s approval email required him to fill out a “Vendor Information Form” in order for him to receive funding.

According to the email that was sent to Lam, he was approved for funding through Cal State LA’s Auxiliary account, which is separate from the traditional state-side funding that allows for students to receive funds through direct deposit. 

Melissa Regan, administrative support assistant for the office of the dean of students, included in the email that Lam did not qualify for the funds to be disbursed through state-side funding and the only way to have his application approved would be to have the funds dispersed through the Auxiliary account. 

She wrote, “There are a number of students who will also have to receive the fund through this alternative process.”