Leer en español: Estudiantes de BYU comienzan a recibir fondos de alivio del COVID
Money from BYU’s COVID relief funds started being disbursed to students Thursday morning, two months after applications for the funds closed.
BYU sent YMessages to students this morning with the amount they received after BYU conducted “a careful review” as well as a list of frequently asked questions. The messages said in determining which students would receive funds, BYU “gave priority to life-sustaining needs,” including food, rent and medical expenses. Helping students with Spring Term tuition was a “secondary use.”
“We acknowledge that students may have other expenses,” reads the message. “However, the scope of the COVID-19 Impact Assistance funds did not extend to all expenses, reimbursements for prior payments, or compensation for canceled, delayed or forfeited opportunities, including internships and employment.”
Students with direct deposit should see the money in their bank accounts by July 20, while those without it will be mailed checks by July 23. The message states the funds may be taxable “depending on your personal tax situation.” The decisions about who received funds are final and cannot be appealed, according to the message.
The funds, which were marked as being for “Winter Semester 2020” in the message, came months after other schools had already released money from the CARES Act as well as university funds. UVU, for example, reported it had released $6,817,000 of CARES Act money to students by May 19.
Aaron Fitzner, who graduated with an M.A. in communications in April, said the funds were “better late than never.”
“I definitely had strong doubts about it happening,” he said. “I absolutely would’ve put that I needed more money had I taken the survey right now as opposed to what I wrote down in May. I didn’t intend on waiting an extra six weeks.”
Survey applications for the funds opened on May 18 and were due on June 1. Students were told they would be notified of a decision by June 8. But on June 10, students received a message from BYU that processing requests for funds was taking longer than expected and that BYU hoped “to notify you of a decision within the next couple of weeks.”
Student messages to the BYU Financial Aid Office through YMessage inquiring about the funds throughout June and July were met with a response that the applications were still with the administration and that “there is not a specified date yet for notifications.”
Fitzner said waiting for the money put a “huge financial strain” on him and his fiance who are moving to California so she can attend law school. He said he wished BYU would have sent updates sooner about the funds.
“Their communication has really failed in the last year,” he said. “It kind of just seems that it’s BYU’s pattern to be ‘we’re going to make an announcement and then we’re not going to give any sort of update until we’re at the final stage.'”
He said his fiance’s school, in contrast, is already on their second round of releasing CARES funds to students and is starting to do another questionnaire to assess students’ needs.
Fitzner initially said on the survey he needed $900 but low-balled and asked for $700. BYU is giving him $600. He said the wording of the survey, which asked students to only report what they “needed” made him question how the funding was being evaluated.
“I wouldn’t say it was forcing me to feel like a bad person, but it almost kind of had that feeling in a way,” he said. “I’m assuming it’s not like ‘Am I going to die without it?'”
BYU student Matt Goulding was excited when BYU first announced it would release COVID relief funds since he had been paying rent at two locations after a buyer backed out of taking his rent over at his old apartment.
“Luckily I had enough money to make it work in the meantime, but I felt frustrated that they denied the coronavirus funds only to take forever to help out in their own way,” Goulding said. “Luckily, when the funds came in I got the amount I asked for and that is a blessing, but I do wish it had come sooner.”
BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said BYU would not release financial information in response to questions from the Universe about the total amount of COVID relief money being released to students and the percentage of student applications that had been approved.
“BYU is not releasing these numbers, but the vast number of students who applied received assistance, many of whom received the amount they requested,” Jenkins said in an email.
When asked whether BYU plans on releasing another round of COVID relief to help students with the costs from spring and summer terms or during fall, Jenkins said, “Students who need assistance should now explore options at financialaid.byu.edu or contact an Enrollment Services professional at 801-422-4104.”