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.
- Cornell to distribute $8.5M to students in need (September 16)
CARES Act Contact Information
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with any additional questions.
Related CARES Act Resources
- Department of Education Frequently Asked Questions from Students (PDF)
- IRS FAQ Information
- Instructions and directions regarding Emergency Financial Aid Grants
- CARES Act email to students, 6/8/2020
- Cornell HEERF/CARES Act Certification Form
- Cornell HEERF/CARES Act Certification Form confirmation message
- Instructions for Accepting your Federal CARES Act Award
- CARES Act email reminder to students, 7/8/2020, 9/23/20
- CARES Act email reminder 2 to students, 7/8/2020, 9/23/20
- WCM CARES Act webpage
Frequently Asked Questions
What expenses qualify under the CARES Act?
This grant has been provided to assist students with unexpected expenses related to campus disruption as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Eligible expenses include but are not limited to:
- Course materials
- Health care
- Child care
How will I know if I'm eligible for a CARES Act grant?
Eligible students will receive a communication via their Cornell email address. The communication will provide information on how to accept, reduce, or decline the grant.
How will I receive this grant?
Those who qualify for and accept this grant will receive direct deposit of the funds. Please ensure that you are setup to receive direct deposit through the Office of the Bursar: https://www.dfa.cornell.edu/bursar/students-parents/deposit-refunds. Please note if you are not setup to receive direct deposit, you will be issued a paper check which can take up to two weeks to process and mail.
I have not been notified that I am receiving CARES Act funding, but I have unexpected expenses related to campus disruption as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. What should I do?
Please email email@example.com.
I have a balance on my Bursar or Cornell Card account, how will the CARES Act funding affect this?
The intent of this funding is to provide emergency assistance to students. The funding will not be applied to any balance you may have on your Bursar or Cornell Card account. The funding will be provided directly to you by direct deposit or check.
Will the CARES Act grant affect my eligibility for financial aid?
No, this funding will not affect current or future financial aid eligibility.
What if I have concerns about contributing to my educational expenses for the upcoming year?
These are truly exceptional times and we know that the current conditions put financial stress on our students and families. As our community responds to the impact of COVID-19, know that our staff are committed to working with our students. Students and families who are experiencing a change in income due to COVID-19 are encouraged to review the options for appealing your aid decision.
Is the CARES Act funding taxable?
Per the Internal Revenue Service the grant should not be included in your taxable income. Please visit the IRS’s site here for more details.
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
- Total number of students who have received an Emergency Financial Aid Grant under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act: 3,792
- Total amount of Emergency Financial Aid Grants distributed to students under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act: $5,428,959.38
- September 2020 Quarterly Budget and Expenditure Reporting under CARES Act Sections 18004(a)(1) Institutional Portion
- 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