CARES Act: Emergency funds for eligible students

What is CARES Act funding?

GRCC received funding established by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to disburse over $3.4 Million in Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF) to eligible students who were impacted by the disruption of campus operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Am I eligible?

GRCC has established four phases or groups for awarding CARES Act funds to students.

To be eligible for CARES Act funding awarded to date, students must meet all of the following 
criteria, based on U.S. Education Department guidelines, and must have incurred expenses as the result of COVID-19-related campus disruptions.

  • Was enrolled in a financial aid-eligible GRCC degree or certificate program
  • Filed a 2019-20 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) with GRCC and was eligible 
  • for federal financial aid during the Winter 2020 and/or Summer 2020 semesters.
  • Meeting satisfactory academic progress (SAP) requirements for financial aid recipients at the 
  • time eligibility was determined.
    • See SAP requirements for credit hour programs.
    • See SAP requirements for clock hour programs.

Students in both credit hour and clock hour based financial aid-eligible programs can be considered for CARES Act funding. A communication about awards is sent to the GRCC email account of all students who meet eligibility criteria. It includes information on their next steps.

Group 1: Awarded in May 2020. In addition to the criteria listed above, students in Group 1 must also have been enrolled during the Winter 2020 semester in at least one originally scheduled, face-to-face class on or after March 13, 2020. The deadline to accept the award: June 30, 2020.

Group 2: Awarded in July 2020. In addition to the general criteria above, Group 2 students must also have resolved any issues related to their FAFSA or SAP status. Additionally, GRCC extended CARES Act consideration to students enrolled in online courses for the Winter semester as long as they were enrolled in a degree or certificate program that had an in-seat component or were not 
pursuing an exclusively online program of study. The deadline to accept the award: August 7, 2020.

Group 3: Awarded in August 2020. In addition to the general criteria above, Group 3 students must also have resolved any issues related to their FAFSA or SAP status and must have been enrolled in the Summer 2020 semester.  Since the majority of Summer courses were online, GRCC allowed students enrolled in online courses during Summer semester to be eligible for CARES Act funds as long as they were enrolled in a degree or certificate program that had an in-seat component or were not pursuing an exclusively online program of study. The deadline to accept the award: September 4, 2020.

Group 4: Will launch during the Fall 2020 semester. GRCC will make an application available to students, allowing students to submit a request to the CARES Act Review Group for consideration of CARES Act funds. The Review Group will confirm that the student meets the eligibility criteria listed above and then determine a dollar amount award based on information provided via the student application.

Are dual enrolled or middle college students eligible for this funding?

At this time, it is our understanding that only students eligible for federal financial aid may receive CARES Act funds. In order to be eligible for federal financial aid, a student must have earned a high school diploma, GED, or other recognized equivalent.

Are international students eligible for this funding?

Based on current U.S. Department of Education guidance, recipients must be U.S. citizens or eligible non-citizens to receive CARES Act funds.

Is it too late for me to complete the 2019-20 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)?

Students enrolled in the Fall 2020 semester can and should complete the 2020-2021 FAFSA. The FAFSA is needed for consideration of CARES Act funds. More importantly, by completing the FAFSA, students will be considered for a variety of federal and state financial aid programs, including grants, scholarships, and student loans.

If I am eligible, how do I accept my award?

Eligible students will receive a communication to their GRCC email account with instructions on how to complete an award acceptance form available within their Online Center. This form will ask students to affirm that they have allowable expenses related to recent campus disruptions and to confirm their contact information and refund choice. 

To view their award and access this form, eligible students will:

  • Log into their Online Center 
  • Select the CARES Award Acceptance Form tile
  • Review the form, select all expenses incurred as a result of COVID-19 campus disruptions
  • Click the award acceptance button
  • Click submit
  • Confirm their contact information and update it, if necessary, in their Online Center. To do so, they would click on the Profile tile, then select Address

When is the deadline to accept my award?

Deadlines for CARES Act Groups 1, 2 and 3 follow:

  • Group 1: June 30, 2020
  • Group 2: August 7, 2020
  • Group 3: September 4, 2020
  • Group 4: funds will be disbursed during the fall 2020 on a first-come, first-served basis until funds are exhausted.

How much will I receive?

CARES Act awards were in the amount of $500 for Groups 1, 2 and 3. For Group 4, the amount of CARES Act funds is yet to be determined.

Does this award need to be paid back?

CARES Act funds are grants, not loans. These funds do not have to be repaid. CARES Act funds are intended to be used to cover expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

If I accept CARES Act funds, will my financial aid be reduced?

No. Your current or future financial aid awards will not be reduced if you accept CARES Act funds to cover expenses due to COVID-19-related campus operation disruptions.

I received notification that I meet the eligibility criteria to receive CARES Act funds, but I did not incur any additional expenses due to COVID-19-related disruption of campus operations. Can I decline this award?

Yes, you can decline the CARES Act funds. To do so, email us at GRCC_CARES@grcc.edu. Indicate that you wish to decline these funds. Unused funds will be awarded to other students who meet eligibility requirements in the future.

How will I receive the funds?

GRCC is partnering with BankMobile to disburse CARES Act funds to eligible students. All enrolled students receive a BankMobile Refund Selection Kit both in the mail and to their GRCC student email. The selection kit allows for the following refund options: 1) deposit to a student’s existing bank or credit union account or 2) deposit to BankMobile Vibe Checking Account. These awards will be disbursed using the same refund method you previously selected.

Students can update their selection choice at: https://bankmobiledisbursements.com/refundchoices/. Students are asked to consider selecting an electronic refund preference as the quickest, most reliable, and safest method. If you have not previously set up a refund preference and need assistance doing so, contact the GRCC Cashier’s Office at cashier@grcc.edu.

When will I receive the funds?

CARES Act funds are grants, not loans. These funds do not have to be repaid. CARES Act funds are intended to be used to cover expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

How can I use the funds?

Students may use these funds for expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic (i.e., food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and childcare) as affirmed on the award acceptance form.

Will I have to pay taxes on CARES Act funds?

No. According to information provided by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS):

“Emergency financial aid grants under the CARES Act for unexpected expenses, unmet financial need, or expenses related to the disruption of campus operations on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as unexpected expenses for food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, or childcare, are qualified disaster relief payments under section 139 of the Internal Revenue Code. This grant is not includible in your gross income.”

More information is available through the IRS CARES Act website.

Who do I contact with questions?

The GRCC CARES Team can help. Please send questions to GRCC_CARES@grcc.edu or call (616) 234-4000.

What other resources are available?

If you need help with resources for food, housing, and/or financial assistance, please visit the Get Help website.