When Mikayla Andrzejewski returned to her parents’ house in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, her summer food service job closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
”I wasn’t able to work and I planned on taking classes over the summer,” said Andrzejewski, a sophomore biology major. “… There was no financial aid offices for the summer, so you have to pay out of pocket. I wasn’t able to work and save money for that.”
To help assist students experiencing financial troubles due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Temple was given nearly $14.4 million from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund for the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act grant, wrote President Richard Englert and Vice President and Provost JoAnne Epps in a statement on May 5.
Schools are required to give at least 50 percent of funds from the grant to emergency student financial aid, according to the Department of Education.
The grant is intended to be used for students to pay for services they may not have access to due to campus closures, like food, technology, housing and health care, Englert and Epps wrote.
Andrzejewski learned about the CARES Act grant through an email Temple sent in early May.
“I went on [TUportal] and it said that I already qualified because of the Pell Grant,” she said. “They told me that I was one of the priority applicants and that they were going to immediately deposit whatever was on file.”
Applications for the CARES Act were open until May 15. Eligibility was based on students’ 2019-20 Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and if a student received federal financial aid, they could receive a CARES Act grant, The Temple News reported.
Temple students who received Federal Pell Grants for the spring 2020 semester were automatically awarded CARES Act grants.
Andrzejewski’s received a total of $1000 from the grant, she said.
Jennifer Perez, a 2020 film and media arts alumna, also received $1000 from the grant because she previously received the Pell Grant.
Perez is currently living with her parents because of campus closure, but is using the grant to pay her rent for an off-campus apartment in Philadelphia, she said.
“My hours got cut as well and I’m not earning as much money as I used to versus now,” Perez said. “So this grant is important for a lot of people, especially who are in crisis and need to buy groceries, rent, even clothes as of right now.”
For students who did not receive a Pell Grant, the grant was awarded case-by-case depending on available funding when the student applied. The university expected students to receive at least $400.
Students who were ineligible for a CARES Act grant but were still facing financial difficulties could still access additional resources, including the Student Emergency Aid Fund, the Broad Street Finish Line Grant and the Cherry Pantry, Englert and Epps wrote.
Quynhgiao Vu, a junior chemistry major, did not apply for the grant when she heard about it because she was busy with final exams at the time. After finals, Vu got an email notifying her she was going to automatically receive the grant as a Pell Grant recipient, she said.
“I have to pay everything by my own,” Vu said. “So tuition I have to take out loans, and I’m still living around Temple and have to pay for my rent, the bills, the food, everything like that.”
Last week, after Vu received some grant money, Temple informed her in an email they would increase the amount she was given.
Vu plans to save the money for her rent in the future because she doesn’t know when the pandemic will end, she said.
Andrzejewski is using her grant to help pay for her summer class. She believes Temple did a good job informing students of the opportunity to apply, but thinks there was miscommunication on how to apply, she added.
“I had to email financial aid to find out that I didn’t have to apply,” Andrzejewski added.
The grant was important for a lot of students who live on campus, especially students who may be from out of state, Andrzejewski said.
“When something like this happens, it forces kids to go home,” she added. “Not all kids are from in-state, a lot of people live out of state so it helps with travel expenses and moving expenses and storing stuff and things like that.”