Campus Community

Seattle University Among First to Get Government Relief Funds to Students

May 8, 2020

International and DACA Students Supported Through University’s Emergency Fund

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law on March 27, provided nearly $3.7 million to Seattle University in emergency relief. Half of that total, more than $1.8 million, goes directly to students in the form of cash grants to cover unexpected expenses due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But even before the U.S. Department of Education created rules on how CARES Act funds were to be distributed, university officials were already preparing to make the funds available as soon as possible to students in need. The university is among the first in the nation to provide the relief funds to students, with more than 90 percent distributed to date.

President Stephen V. Sundborg, S.J., signed and sent the Education Department’s required Funding Certification and Agreement within hours of the Department publishing the process by which funding would become available. That same day, April 10, Provost Shane P. Martin appointed a committee to oversee the distribution of funds. The committee quickly created an easy-to-use application for students to apply for funding. The application, posted before Seattle U received its CARES Act funds, asked each student applying for relief grants to explain the disruption the pandemic caused them and submit their statement by April 21. The university began depositing relief grants into students’ bank accounts on May 4. Students who did not provide the university with direct deposit information were mailed checks.

Students were able to indicate on their application the direct financial impact they experienced related to COVID-19. Seattle U used this information, along with what it knew about the students’ overall financial situation through their FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), to guide award decisions. The university aimed to award the highest amount to the greatest number of students possible.

“I’m grateful for the leadership and expedited implementation by the committee to get funds quickly to our students in need,” says Sundborg. “Their actions reflect the importance we place on the value of putting the good and care of our students first, which is more important than ever during this extraordinarily challenging and disruptive time.”

As of April 21, the university received 1,650 applications for emergency aid to students. Of those applications, 166 were international students and a small number were DACA students ineligible for CARES Act funding. On April 22, the Department of Education issued a new restriction on CARES Act funding. The funds could not be issued to DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) or international students. Seattle U immediately agreed to review those applications anyway and committed to funding those applications with funds from the President’s Emergency Fund. This allowed the university to issue awards to more than 170 students who otherwise could not receive an award.

“Seattle University values all of our students – no matter their places of origin or status – which is a hallmark of the inclusive and equitable culture we emphasize and strive to uphold,” says Sundborg.

Eligible students were awarded CARES Act grants in amounts ranging from $250 to $1,250 in $250 increments, resulting in 1,429 students receiving CARES Act awards totaling nearly $1.69 million. Another 175 students received funding through the President’s Emergency Fund.

As of May 12, the university had disbursed all of its student CARES Act funds to aid 1,624 students, and had assisted another 262 students with funds from the Presiident's Emergency Fund.

CARES Act funds that students receive are not subject to tax, according to guidance from the Internal Revenue Service.