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University awarded $2.4 million in CARES funding in April, will announce distribution plan in coming weeks

Federal award intended to provide support to students during COVID-19 pandemic

The University was awarded $2.4 million in federal stimulus funding April 26 through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act but has yet to distribute the funds, which are designated for the provision of emergency financial aid grants for students. The award provides federal support to cover costs associated with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“The University plans to make a decision in the coming weeks about the distribution of funds to eligible students and will provide more detailed information at that time,” Vice President for Communications Cass Cliatt wrote in a Jan. 26 email to The Herald. “We plan to communicate with the campus about the process.”

Institutions of higher education learned of the funding allocations for which they were eligible shortly after the bill’s passage on March 27, Cliatt wrote. Under this initial package through the Education Stabilization Fund, the University was eligible for up to $4.8 million in stimulus funding. 

Of the University’s possible CARES allocation, $2.4 million of the funding was designated for the provision of emergency financial aid grants for students. The remaining $2.4 million was restricted by government-mandated spending rules and limitations, Cliatt wrote, which prompted the University to apply only for the $2.4 million of funding intended for student aid grants.

According to Cliatt, the Department of Education released application forms for the $2.4 million of student-focused funding April 10. “Brown signed the CARES Act certifications as part of the application package for the student portion in late April, and it was submitted to the Department of Education,” she wrote. In a Feb. 1 email to The Herald, Cliatt wrote that “Brown will be reimbursed the $2.4 million after spending it and submitting qualifying expenses.”

The University has not yet finalized distribution plans because it wanted to ensure that it disbursed “the award to students in a way that is equitable and complies with the considerable restrictions established by the federal government,” Cliatt wrote. “One of those restrictions is that institutions that disburse funding must demonstrate a commitment to avoiding layoffs and involuntary furloughs during the pandemic.”

Considerations about layoffs and furloughs impacted the timeline of the fund disbursement, Cliatt wrote. “Although we have been and remain committed to avoiding layoffs to the best extent practicable, we did not know enough about the course of the pandemic and its impact on Brown's budget to be certain that this commitment could be sustained over time,” she wrote. “Now that we have a clearer picture of the University’s budget outlook and are confident that our commitment to avoiding layoffs can be sustained for the foreseeable future, we will move forward with disbursing the stimulus funds.”

As of August, 2,860 students were eligible for the emergency funds provided by the bill, according to an Aug. 21 report. The University is required to “create, maintain and update public reporting on the use of these funds” in order to remain in compliance with the grant, according to the report.

Members of Brown’s Undocumented, First-Generation College and Low-Income Student (U-FLi) community have voiced concerns about the fact that the University has yet to distribute CARES resources. 

“Brown both failed to address the financial needs of graduate students and then gave its undergraduate students on financial aid a mere $150 for travel and moving expenses,” Sibeles Torres ’22, Adela Herce ’22 and Georgeara Castañeda ’21.5 wrote in a Jan. 28 op-ed for The Herald. “The (CARES) money could have provided relief for students throughout the pandemic, but instead it remains untouched.”

All of the University’s provisions of financial aid and emergency funding since the start of the pandemic have been funded solely by University resources, Cliatt wrote. “Brown has devoted its own resources to meet student needs in ways beyond what the federal funding will allow,” she added. 

The University’s commitment to helping students included providing increased financial aid to families with increased need, expanding the E-Gap fund, waiving fees and expanding access to funds for travel, living expenses and technology, Cliatt wrote. In addition, the University eliminated summer work earning expectations for students who receive aid and increased University scholarship as a replacement measure. 

The University has devoted nearly $7.3 million to supporting students’ personal financial situations during the pandemic, according to Cliatt. Another $10 million in additional funding has been spent to house students in single-occupancy rooms, and “tens of millions of dollars” have been channeled toward student testing, Cliatt wrote. 

Many of the University’s peer institutions, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Stanford University, abstained from receiving funds made available under CARES amid national scrutiny regarding the acceptance of stimulus money by the nation’s wealthiest institutions. Cornell, which received $6.4 million in CARES funding, emailed students who were eligible for an emergency financial aid grant June 8 about how to receive funds. As of Aug. 19, Dartmouth had distributed $1.6 million in stimulus funding, and as of January, Columbia had not distributed any of its awarded funds.

The University applied for a second round of stimulus funding Jan. 29 through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA), under which it is eligible for up to $6.9 million in aid, according to Cliatt. The University has not yet received notice of award or received any CRRSAA funds. Cliatt added that the University will announce its plans for the CRRSAA funding, assuming its application is accepted, along with how it plans to disburse the CARES aid in the coming weeks.

The funds “will be used in a way that reflects our commitment to equity while complying with federal rules for spending these funds,” Cliatt wrote. “Brown is fully committed to easing the challenges of this pandemic for our students.”

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