CARES Act Emergency Funding for Students

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 has been allocated $6.4 million to distribute in grants to students who have incurred unexpected expenses due to the COVID-19 emergency and campus closures.

The U.S. Department of Education has required 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. Cornell has signed and returned to the Department a Certification and Agreement affirming that the university will distribute this CARES Act funding to students whose expenses were affected by the COVID-19 emergency (including eligible expenses under a student’s cost of attendance such as food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and child care).

To be eligible 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 have potential eligibility. Assigning priority to students with the highest demonstrated financial need, Cornell reviewed the circumstances for 5,130 students for CARES awards. As of December 31, 2020, Cornell has distributed a total of $5,475,050.80 in Emergency Financial Aid Grants to 3,821 students under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act.

All of Cornell’s recipients 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. Amounts have been adjusted for any of these students who have already received Access emergency funding, housing/dining refunds or other refunds, and based on each student’s specific calculated expected contribution. Typical award values for CARES awards range between $300 and $2,500.

Students receiving the university’s award notice will be 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 will be 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 have not incurred reimbursable expenses.

The university’s chief aim in this distribution is to ensure that our highest-need students will be able to continue pursuing their educational goals, including our Spring 2020 graduates whose final semester was disrupted by the pandemic. The remaining available funds from Cornell’s allotment of $6.4m will be reserved as of June 8, 2020 anticipating additional calculations of emergency funding needs, including some from Weill Cornell medical students in New York City.

These HEERF/CARES awards will be passed through PeopleSoft in full and will not be applied to or used to offset any charge, debt, tuition, fees, or other unpaid balance in a student account, nor will it be 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 will have access to the funds approximately three business days from the date of disbursement. For those not enrolled in direct deposit, the Office of the Bursar will issue a check.

*Data as of March 2020.

CARES Act Updates

Beginning 3/22/2021, Cornell expands initial CARES Act HEERF I eligibility reviews:

Graduate students enrolled in eligible programs through the Ithaca or Cornell Tech locations are considered for additional HEERF I eligibility based on a longer timeline of impact to expenses incurred as a result of the Spring 2021 COVID campus disruption, accounting for expenses up to the start of the Fall 2021 semester under the following circumstances:

  • Graduate student borrowers whose loan borrowing in 19-20 exceeds the amount of funds received from graduate tuition awards, graduate fellowships and stipends, and primary federal EFC, when added together, will receive the following:
    • If the eligible graduate student previously received HEERF funds, the student is eligible to receive an additional $1,031.39 
    • If the eligible graduate student has not previously received HEERF funds, the student is 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.

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CARES Act Contact Information

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

Related CARES Act Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

Historical Fund Reporting

  • May 8, 2020: Allocation Date
  • June 7, 2020: $0 Disbursed
  • July 22, 2020
    • Total number of students who have received an Emergency Financial Aid Grant under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act: 3,388
    • 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
    • Total number of students who have received an Emergency Financial Aid Grant under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act: 3821 
    • 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:
    • Total number of students who have received an Emergency Financial Aid Grant under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act: 3925 
    • Total amount of Emergency Financial Aid Grants distributed to students under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act: $6,092,284.27