BYU students reflect on ‘much needed’ COVID relief funds

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Leer en español: Estudiantes de BYU reflexionan sobre los “muy necesarios” fondos de alivio del COVID

BYU students walk past the Harold B. Lee Library on the first day of Fall Semester 2020. BYU COVID relief funds, distributed in July, enabled a number of students to cover a variety of academic and living expenses. (Preston Crawley)

Emma Mecham, a pre-media arts major from Firth, Idaho, was unsure whether she’d have the means to register for Fall Semester. The pandemic had just hit, her on-campus job status was up in the air and she already had a sizable amount of medical expenses from earlier in the year to worry about.

Mecham, like many students, wondered if she should just move home and plan on deferring her enrollment for a while. However, as soon as BYU announced its plan to distribute COVID relief funds in May, Mecham became hopeful and ultimately decided to continue attending school.

“The funds were definitely really helpful,” Mecham said. “I don’t know if I would have been able to come to school this semester if I hadn’t received those. They were much needed and honestly really, really helpful.”

Additional students who received such funding, which the school distributed in July, used the money to cover a variety of academic and living expenses. Student responses to a Daily Universe social media survey indicated they used the funds to pay for rent, tuition, groceries, health insurance, hospital bills and other medical-related expenses.

Although BYU did not disclose how many students received the relief funds or the total amount of money distributed, university spokeswoman Carri Jenkins told the Daily Universe that “the vast number of students who applied received assistance.”

Alexa Archer, a special education major from South Jordan, Utah, used the relief funds she received to help cover her rent and tuition. Archer lost her job at the BYU Ticket Office soon after the pandemic hit and was unable to find work elsewhere.

Archer noted it was somewhat stressful having to wait nearly two months from BYU’s initial announcement to receive the funds, especially after watching her brother receive money from UVU in May. Archer was relieved to see the funds eventually come through which, like Mecham, enabled her to return to school this fall.

“I wasn’t able to register for Fall Semester until I paid tuition, which did kind of take a while,” Archer said. “But it was really nice actually seeing the funds come through because I was able to enroll in another semester and not get behind in classes or anything.”

While Archer noted she received enough money from BYU to get through the uncertainty, she admitted that she knows of students who would have benefitted from another round of relief funds.

“I know that for other students who are in less fortunate situations, another round of funding would be really helpful for them,” Archer said. “Especially if the semester goes online again and students lose their jobs and have to worry about rent, more funds would be really helpful.”

BYU does not have any current plans to distribute additional COVID relief funding to students. However, Jenkins told the Daily Universe that “students who need assistance should now explore options at financialaid.byu.edu or contact an Enrollment Services professional at 801-422-4104.”

BYU was one of four universities owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that turned down CARES Act COVID relief money in May. BYU was initially offered over $32 million in federal funding but rejected it soon after, noting it had never applied or asked for such resources. Instead, BYU urged the U.S. Department of Education to reallocate the money to other schools throughout the country and chose to use private funds to aid its students.

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