Governor Ralph Northam announced Oct. 27 that he would be allocating around $116 million in federal aid through the CARES Act to Virginia public universities and medical centers — $11.2 million of which will go to the University. These funds are designed to help schools recover from costs they’ve already incurred due to COVID-19 and to subsidize additional future costs through Dec. 30.
“Virginia has some of the best colleges and universities in the nation, and they are working overtime to keep students, staff and faculty safe,” Northam said in a press release Tuesday.
The CARES Act, also known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, is a federal bill that provided around $2.2 trillion in aid to state and local governments, small businesses and major industries hit hardest by the pandemic. It was passed back in late March as the pandemic gained traction in the United States.
Colleges and universities around the Commonwealth and country have suffered significant financial loss due to COVID-19, so many have taken advantage of the federal aid offered by the government. Of the $2.2 trillion in aid distributed by the CARES Act, about $14 billion was given to the Office of Postsecondary Education as the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund.
Ahead of the school year, University officials predicted $55 million in one-time costs and lost revenues, should the University decide to bring students back to Grounds — these losses were attributed to COVID-19 preparedness and lost housing and dining fees from students who decided to stay home. Additionally, the University made $90 million in cuts to its budget for this fiscal year thanks to the pandemic.
University spokesperson Wes Hester said this new infusion of CARES Act money “will be used to support student testing, isolation and quarantine, personal protective equipment, tents erected throughout Grounds and other similar costs.”
This isn’t the first time the University has received federal aid through the CARES Act — in late April, the University received $11.7 million in aid. Of those funds, over half — or $5.85 million — were distributed to students. Now, nearing the end of the fall semester, the University has already given about $4.11 million of that to students, which is over 70 percent of the money.
Since the start of the semester, the University has continued to use CARES Act funds to financially support students affected by COVID-19. All students enrolled for the fall 2020 term can request up to $6,195 for costs they’ve incurred in any shape or form due to the pandemic.
As of Sept. 30, the University has provided 2,586 students with CARES Act funds. 11,273 students in total are eligible for what are deemed as “Emergency Financial Aid Grants” by the University. These grants can cover food, housing, educational technology, health care related to COVID-19 and more.
The amount of financial support that is awarded to students for a financial aid grant through the CARES Act depends on student type and their financial need level.
These funds come to the University at a time when the University community has 41 active cases, with 19 of those cases being students. The positivity rate of the 5,448 tests conducted last week was just .046 percent.