BYU releasing COVID-19 relief funds to students, rejecting CARES Act money

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Flowers bloom outside the Harold B. Lee Library on the BYU campus. BYU announced it will release COVID-19 relief funds to students in need. (Hannah Miner)

BYU sent messages to students late Monday afternoon informing them of their ability to apply for COVID-19 relief funds.

“The global pandemic has impacted every person in many ways,” reads the message. “After expending their own resources and seeking assistance from family members, individuals are counseled to turn to the church community.”

All matriculated students, including international students and 2020 graduates, who were enrolled in winter semester classes as of March 13, are able to apply for the funds. Applications are submitted through a questionnaire that was linked in the original Y message.

The questionnaire starts by asking students if they incurred expenses during March and April “that (they) were not able to cover with (their) own resources or with assistance from family.” If they select “yes” to that first question, students are then asked to enter amounts for expenses like food, rent, utilities, medical costs or Spring tuition that they were unable to cover.

Once the questionnaire is submitted, students receive a message that reads: “Thank you for completing the questionnaire. You may edit your responses to this questionnaire until midnight (MDT) June 1, 2020. You will be notified of a decision by June 8, 2020.”

A FAQ about the funds, which is only accessible with a BYU login, states the money comes from university funds and is not part of the $32 million earmarked for BYU received in the CARES Act.

“We believe we can assist our students without the CARES Act funds,” the university said. “BYU has decided not to accept any part of the funds allocated to our university. We have notified the Department of Education of our decision so that it might reallocate resources to others.”

It’s unclear how much money each student is eligible to receive, the total amount BYU will release or how BYU will verify students’ survey responses.

“An amount has been set aside that BYU will use to assist students with their needs,” BYU Spokesperson Carri Jenkins said. “BYU officials will carefully review each request for assistance. If questions arise, they may reach out to students directly for more information.”

The relief funds FAQ says “it depends” in response to whether students will receive the full amount of money they apply for.

“These funds are meant to offset financial impacts, not to fully compensate students for all losses incurred by the COVID–19 pandemic. BYU will have to weigh and evaluate all requests individually and in total before determining final amounts,” reads the FAQ. “The university hopes students whose basic needs and increased expenses have been met through their own resources and the assistance of family members will choose to allow funds to be allocated to other students with more need.”

Recipients of the funds will be able to apply the assistance to any charges on their accounts and then have the remaining amount refunded or be refunded the full amount directly through direct deposit or a printed check sent in the mail. The funds may also be taxable.

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