Since the campus operational posture was elevated to “High Risk” on Sunday, we have heard from a number of students who are employed in jobs, either on campus or off, with questions about how the directive to self-sequester applies to them. I am writing to you today to address some of the issues that have been raised.
A directive to self-sequester has been activated, at the encouragement of state public health officials, to help mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus and we expect everyone’s cooperation.
It is our expectation that, where possible, student employees work remotely; and students currently performing remote jobs will continue in those roles. Students who are staffing campus testing and vaccination clinics and laboratories should continue to report to work, and testing and vaccination clinics will continue operations as scheduled. Other student employees performing essential functions, such as research, residential life, or transportation, should consult with their supervisors as to how their work schedules will be affected.
Students who are employed in off-campus jobs in the Amherst area (Amherst, Belchertown, Hadley, Leverett, Pelham, Shutesbury, and Sunderland) should consult with their employers to see if their job functions can be performed remotely during this period. To be clear, however, students employed off-campus are expected to follow the self-sequester directive to aid in reducing the spread of the virus.
We understand that the directive to self-sequester may present financial hardship for students who rely on income from their employment to support costs of attendance (tuition, housing, meals, textbooks, etc). As a result, we have set up a Student Employment Assistance Grant program to support students who are unable to work. Grant awards will be up to $300 per student. The application form is currently being developed and will be available on the Bursar's website from Friday, February 12, through Friday, February 19, 2021. In addition, students may be eligible for pandemic unemployment assistance through the state of Massachusetts. Please visit www.mass.gov/pandemic-unemployment-assistance-pua to learn about these resources. We will continue to provide you with information regarding other state and federal assistance programs as they become available.
We are also reaching out to area employers through the Amherst Business Improvement District and the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce, which includes Hadley and Belchertown, to ask for their cooperation, patience and understanding as we work to contain the recent surge of COVID-19 cases in our campus community. As challenging as the situation is at this moment, we know that our current status is only temporary and we urge these businesses to welcome students back, as employees and valued customers, as the public health situation improves.
Brandi Hephner LaBanc
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Campus Life