CARES Act Emergency Financial Aid Grant

This information was updated to reflect disbursements to students as of 12/31/2020.

What is the CARES Act?

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act provides emergency funds to universities, including UMass Amherst, to directly support students whose lives and educations have been disrupted by the COVID-19 outbreak.  This federal funding is designed to prioritize students with the greatest need.  We recognize that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused considerable disruptions and presents unparalleled challenges for many students and their families, and we are committed to delivering these funds as quickly as possible.

The UMass CARES Act Grant has been created to disburse these funds to students.  UMass Amherst received a total of $9,167,622 from the Department of Education based 75% on the number of pell grant recipients and 25% on the total number of non-pell students.

I am an undergraduate student.  Can I receive a CARES Act Grant?

Students who meet basic eligibility criteria for federal financial aid and who have the greatest financial need can be considered for these funds.

Grants were awarded to students that met all of the following criteria:

  • UMass has received an official 2019-2020 FAFSA form
  • Enrolled degree seeking undergraduate student for Spring 2020
  • Not enrolled exclusively in an online program, defined as an education program that has no in-person classes over the course of the entire program
  • Meet Title IV Federal Financial Aid eligibility requirements https://studentaid.gov/understand-aid/eligibility/requirements.
  • Maintaining the minimum requirements of Satisfactory Academic Progress.
  • Recipient of UMass Institutional Aid and/or a Pell Grant for the Spring 2020 semester.

How was the funding amount for the CARES Act determined for undergraduate students?

The University distributed approximately $8.3Million to nearly 7,800 undergraduates based on a combination of institutionally-funded financial aid need and an estimate of the amount of additional COVID related costs incurred by students.  Grants ranged from $900 to $1,680 per student.

In addition, through a second allocation process, just over $100,000 was awarded to 159 undergraduate students.  These grants ranged from $285 to $925 per student.

I am a graduate student.  Can I receive a CARES Act grant?

Graduate students who meet basic eligibility criteria for federal financial aid and who have demonstrated financial need can be considered for these funds.  A total of $750,000 was awarded to graduate students.

Grants totaling $556,000 were awarded to graduate students that met all of the following criteria:

  • UMass has received an official 2019-2020 FAFSA form.
  • Enrolled degree seeking graduate student for Spring 2020.
  • Not enrolled exclusively in an online program, defined as an education program that has no in-person classes over the course of the entire program.
  • Meet Title IV Federal Financial Aid eligibility requirements https://studentaid.gov/understand-aid/eligibility/requirements.
  • Maintaining the minimum requirements of Satisfactory Academic Progress.

Grants totaling $194,000 were awarded to graduate students that met all of the following criteria:

  • UMass has received an official 2020-2021 FAFSA form.
  • Enrolled degree seeking graduate student for Fall 2020.
  • Not enrolled exclusively in an online program, defined as an education program that has no in-person classes over the course of the entire program.
  • Meet Title IV Federal Financial Aid eligibility requirements https://studentaid.gov/understand-aid/eligibility/requirements.
  • Maintaining the minimum requirements of Satisfactory Academic Progress.

How will I receive this grant?

CARES Act Grant funds will be disbursed through your student account.  These funds will not be applied to any outstanding balance on your account and you will receive the full amount of the CARES Act Grant. 

If you have signed up for direct deposit through our Excess Express program, you should receive these funds deposited to your bank account within 3-5 business days.  If you had not enrolled in Excess Express, a check will be mailed to your permanent address.  This process could take up to 2 weeks.

Why didn’t I receive a CARES Act Grant?

Under U.S. Department of Education rules for the program, students who are not eligible for federal financial aid programs are not eligible for federal CARES grants.

As described above, the University distributed CARES grants to students who received pell grants and/or institutionally-funded need based aid or whose FAFSA demonstrated need.  Students who did not receive a grant may reference additional resources below.

Is there additional assistance the University can provide me?

Additional resources that are available on campus include:

Will the CARES Act grant affect my eligibility for Financial Aid in the Fall 2020 semester?

No, CARES Act funding will not count towards Estimated Financial Assistance (EFA) and did affect Fall 2020 financial aid eligibility.

Is the CARES Act grant taxable?

No, per the Internal Revenue Service the grant will not be included in your taxable income.  Please visit the IRS’s site https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/faqs-higher-education-emergency-relief-fund-and-emergency-financial-aid-grants-under-the-cares-act for more details.

What expenses qualify under the CARES Act?

These funds must be used for expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to COVID-19, including eligible expenses under a student’s cost of attendance such as food, housing, course materials, technology, health care and child care.

Are there reporting requirements for Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund Financial Aid Grants to Students?

Yes. The Department of Education, through the Office of Postsecondary Education, issued guidelines for the reporting of CARES Act to provide Emergency Financial Aid Grants to students. Read those requirements and the steps taken by the University.