Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF)

This site provides information related to emergency grant funds available to students through the following federal fund resources:

  1. Coronavirus Assistance, Relief and Economics Security Act (CARES Act);
  2. Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021 (CRRSAA); and
  3. American Rescue Plan Act, 2021 (ARP)

Coronavirus Assistance, Relief and Economics Security Act (CARES Act – HEERF I)

The Coronavirus Assistance, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act approved more than $14 billion in support for higher education. Using a formula based on both total enrollment and the share of enrolled students eligible for Pell Grants, Cornell University was allocated $12,800,980. Cornell University signed and returned to the U.S. Department of Education a Certification and Agreement affirming 50% of those funds ($6,400,490) will be distributed in grants to students who have incurred unexpected expenses due to the COVID-19 emergency and campus closures (including eligible expenses under a student’s cost of attendance such as food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and child care).

Cornell University distributed all CARES Act student emergency grant funding under the requirement that all recipients of funds awarded under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act must be eligible to participate in programs under Section 484 in Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965. To demonstrate eligibility for CARES funding, students must have submitted to Cornell a valid 2019-2020 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Based on this requirement, approximately 10,170 Cornell students demonstrated potential eligibility, as of March 2020.

In order to establish a priority of awarding funds, Cornell University identified students as having the most significant financial need as those who are either undergraduate dependent students with an expected parent/guardian contribution or independent students with a personal contribution of less than $18,000 during the 2019-2020 academic year, or graduate and professional students with federal loan borrowing history. Based on these eligibility requirements, Cornell University identified 5,130 potential CARES Act emergency grant fund recipients. As of April 21, 2021, Cornell distributed a total of $6,400,490 in Emergency Financial Aid Grants to 3,979 students under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act.

Typical award values for CARES awards ranged between $300 and $2,500. Amounts were adjusted for any student who received Access emergency funding, housing/dining refunds or other refunds, and based on each student’s specific calculated expected contribution.

Beginning 3/22/2021, Cornell expanded initial CARES Act award eligibility for graduate student borrowers from the Ithaca and Cornell Tech locations whose loan borrowing in 2019-2020 exceeded the combined total of funds received from graduate tuition awards, graduate fellowships and stipends, and primary federal EFC to account for a longer timeline of expenses incurred as a result of the Spring 2020 COVID campus disruption, accounting for expenses up to the start of the Fall 2021 semester under the following circumstances:

  • If the eligible graduate student previously received HEERF funds, the student was eligible to receive an additional $1,031.39
  • If the eligible graduate student had not previously received HEERF funds, the student was eligible to receive a total of $1588.34 minus any Access Awards they earlier received as assistance for the COVID disruption. This represents the initial award amount of $556.95 plus the additional amount of $1,031.39.

Students receiving the university’s notice of grant eligibility were asked to review the proposed award and certify that they have incurred not-otherwise reimbursed covered expenses in at least the amount of the award. Students were able to (1) accept that award amount; (2) accept a lesser amount that more accurately reflects their unreimbursed expenses; or, (3) accept no funds if they did not incur reimbursable expenses.

The university’s chief aim in this distribution was to ensure that our highest-need students are able to continue pursuing their educational goals, including our Spring 2020 graduates whose final semester was disrupted by the pandemic.

CARES emergency student grant funds were passed through PeopleSoft in full and were not applied to or used to offset any charge, debt, tuition, fees, or other unpaid balance in a student account, nor were the funds encumbered in any manner by Cornell. Federal guidance has confirmed that the amounts to be distributed are not subject to tax or withholding. Students enrolled in direct deposit have access to funds approximately three business days from the date of disbursement. For those not enrolled in direct deposit, the Office of the Bursar issued a check.

Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021 (CRRSAA – HEERF II)

The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021 approved an additional $22.7 billion in support for higher education. Using a formula based on total enrollment, distance and in-person education, and the share of enrolled students eligible for Pell Grants, Cornell University was allocated $18,512,730. The CRRSAA requires that institutions receiving funding under section 314(a)(1) provide the “same amount” of funding in financial aid grants to students that it was required to provide under the CARES Act. Thus, Cornell University will provide at least $6,400,490 of CRRSAA funds directly to students through financial aid grants for students.

Financial aid grants for students may be used for any component of the student’s cost of attendance or for emergency costs that arise due to coronavirus, such as tuition, food, housing, health care (including mental health care) or child care. Funds are not restricted to expenses associated with the closure of campus in the Spring 2020 semester.

The CRRSAA provides institutions with the discretion to determine the amount and availability of each individual financial aid grant consistent with all applicable laws, including nondiscrimination laws but must prioritize grants to students with exceptional need. CRRSAA funds may be used for students enrolled in degree-seeking, non-degree seeking, non-credit, dual enrollment, and continuing education programs without restriction to in-person instruction. As of May 14th, remaining HEERF II funds may be awarded to refugees, asylum seekers, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients, other DREAMers, and similar undocumented students who qualify for HEERF student grants, as the US Department of Education has removed the requirement that a student must be eligible for Title IV aid to receive financial assistance under the HEERF programs.

As of September 13, 2021 Cornell University distributed all remaining HEERF II funds under the CRRSAA fully to students identified with exceptional financial need, in total expending $6,400,490 to 2,060 students.

Cornell University has identified students with exceptional need as those who:

  • Met the criteria for CARES Act Emergency Student Grant Funds, but for whom CARES Act funding was unavailable; or
  • Any student who self-identifies as having high financial need by self-reporting emergency expenses and demonstrating eligibility for Cornell Grant funds OR by providing an explanation of their financial circumstance; or
  • Updated September 13, 2021: Undergraduate students who submitted a 2021-2022 FAFSA or Profile Application (or who qualified for continuing student Profile rollover) who met one of the following formulas:
    • Students identified as Dependent on the FAFSA or Profile: (49,500 minus Parent Contribution) divided by 15
    • Students identified as Independent on the FAFSA or Profile: (49,500 minus Student Contribution) divided by 15.

In order to prioritize students with exceptional need, funding distributed on September 13th was limited to undergraduate students enrolled in the Fall 2021 semester, or those who had expressed their intent to enroll and had not yet withdrawn for the Fall 2021 semester.

Student emergency grants are not contingent on continued or future enrollment and are passed through PeopleSoft in full and are not applied to or used to offset any charge, debt, tuition, fees, or other unpaid balance in a student account, nor are the funds encumbered in any manner by Cornell. Federal guidance has confirmed that the amounts to be distributed are not subject to tax or withholding. Students enrolled in direct deposit have access to funds approximately three business days from the date of disbursement. For those not enrolled in direct deposit, the Office of the Bursar issued a check.

American Rescue Plan Act, 2021 (ARP – HEERF III)

The American Rescue Plan Act, 2021 (ARP – HEERF III) approved an additional $40 billion in support for higher education. Using a formula based on total enrollment, distance and in-person education, and the share of enrolled students eligible for Pell Grants, Cornell University was allocated $33,273,598 and is required to spend at least 50% for student emergency grants, thus, Cornell University will provide at least $16,636,800 of ARP funds directly to students through financial aid grants for students.

Financial aid grants for students may be used for any component of the student’s cost of attendance or for emergency costs that arise due to coronavirus, such as tuition, food, housing, health care (including mental health care) or child care. Funds are not restricted to expenses associated with the closure of campus in the Spring 2020 semester.

The ARP provides institutions with the discretion to determine the amount and availability of each individual financial aid grant consistent with all applicable laws, including nondiscrimination laws but must prioritize grants to students with exceptional need. Cornell University may provide ARP funds students enrolled on or after March 13, 2020 (the date the national emergency was declared for COVID-19) in degree-seeking, non-degree seeking, non-credit, dual enrollment, and continuing education programs without restriction to in-person instruction. Funds may be provided to refugees, asylum seekers, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients, other DREAMers, and similar undocumented students, as the US Department of Education has removed the requirement that a student must be eligible for Title IV aid to receive financial assistance under the HEERF programs.

As of September 30, 2021 Cornell University has distributed a total of $11,298,190 HEERF III funds under the ARP to 5,836 students who met the institution’s definition of exceptional need.

Cornell University has identified students with exceptional need and eligible for HEERF III funds as those who:

  • Updated September 13, 2021: Undergraduate students who submitted a 2021-2022 FAFSA or Profile Application (or who qualified for continuing student Profile rollover) who met one of the following formulas:
    • Students identified as Dependent on the FAFSA or Profile: (49,500 minus Parent Contribution) divided by 15
    • Students identified as Independent on the FAFSA or Profile: (49,500 minus Student Contribution) divided by 15; or
  • Graduate and Professional students at Ithaca or Tech campuses who submitted a 2021-2022 FAFSA or Profile Application for financial assistance

In order to prioritize students with exceptional need, funding distributed on September 13th was limited to students enrolled in the Fall 2021 semester, or those who had expressed their intent to enroll and had not yet withdrawn for the Fall 2021 semester.

More stories:

HEERF Contact Information

Please email caresfund@cornell.edu with any additional questions.

Related HEERF Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

Historical Fund Reporting

  • September 30, 2021:
    • 2021 Quarter 3 Institutional HEERF Reporting (PDF)
    • Cumulative total number of students who have received an Emergency Financial Aid Grant under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act: 3,979
    • Cumulative total amount of Emergency Financial Aid Grants distributed to students under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act: $6,400,490
    • Cumulative total number of students who have received an Emergency Financial Aid Grant under Section 314(a)(1) of the CRRSAA Act: 2,060
    • Cumulative total amount of Emergency Financial Aid Grants distributed to students under Section 314(a)(1) of the CRRSAA Act: $6,400,490
    • Cumulative total number of students who have received an Emergency Financial Aid Grant under Section 2003(a)(1) of the ARP Act: 5836
    • Cumulative total amount of Emergency Financial Aid Grants distributed to students under Section 2003(a)(1) of the ARP Act: $11,298,190
  • May 8, 2020: Initial Allocation Date - CARES Act, HEERF I
  • June 7, 2020: $0 Disbursed - CARES HEERF I
  • July 22, 2020
    • Cumulative Total number of students who have received an Emergency Financial Aid Grant under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act: 3,388
    • Cumulative Total amount of Emergency Financial Aid Grants distributed to students under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act: $4,729,265.44
  • September 30, 2020
  • December 31, 2020
    • December 31, 2020 Quarterly Budget and Expenditure Reporting under CARES Act Sections 18004(a)(1) Institutional Portion: No Quarterly Expenditures to Report
    • Cumulative total number of students who have received an Emergency Financial Aid Grant under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act: 3,821 
    • Cumulative total amount of Emergency Financial Aid Grants distributed to students under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act: $5,475,050.80
  • March 31, 2021:
    • June 30, 2021 Quarterly Budget and Expenditure Reporting for HEERF I, II, and III (a)(1) Institutional Portion, (a)(2), and (a)(3): No Quarterly Expenditures to Report
    • Cumulative total number of students who have received an Emergency Financial Aid Grant under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act: 3,925 
    • Cumulative total amount of Emergency Financial Aid Grants distributed to students under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act: $6,092,284.27
  • June 30, 2021:
    • June 30, 2021 Quarterly Budget and Expenditure Reporting for HEERF I, II, and III (a)(1) Institutional Portion, (a)(2), and (a)(3) (PDF)
    • Cumulative total number of students who have received an Emergency Financial Aid Grant under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act: 3,979
    • Cumulative total amount of Emergency Financial Aid Grants distributed to students under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act: $6,400,490
    • Cumulative total number of students who have received an Emergency Financial Aid Grant under Section 314(a)(1) of the CRRSAA Act: 3
    • Cumulative total amount of Emergency Financial Aid Grants distributed to students under Section 314(a)(1) of the CRRSAA Act: $2,679.28
    • Cumulative total number of students who have received an Emergency Financial Aid Grant under Section 2003(a)(1) of the ARP Act: 0
    • Cumulative total amount of Emergency Financial Aid Grants distributed to students under Section 2003(a)(1) of the ARP Act: $0