CUNY distributes $118M in federal pandemic emergency grants



Jahlil Rush, Production Assistant

CUNY began distributing $118 million in federal emergency grants to 150,000 students in both community colleges and senior colleges in May. The funding was part of the stimulus relief package passed by Congress in December 2020.

The second round of relief, known as the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, was given to help students meet their educational and living expenses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to CUNY, the federal government modified the criteria to help more students qualify for the funds. Over half of its 270,000 students met the requirements for the CRRSAA emergency grants.

Eligible students were given amounts ranging from $600 to $1100, resulting in an average amount of $750. CUNY took into consideration students’ financial circumstances and full-time or part-time status when deciding these amounts.

CUNY Chancellor Félix Matos Rodríguez spoke about the financial assistance, characterizing this second round as necessary for CUNY students.

“As we approach the end of this very challenging academic year, I am pleased that so many CUNY students will be getting a second round of much-needed financial help from the federal government,” he said. “Our students have shown tremendous resilience since the start of the pandemic, but they continue to face economic hardships that can hinder their academic progress. The federal relief is vital to our continuing efforts to help them stay on track.”

During the height of the pandemic, CUNY distributed $118 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act to 160,977 students, with awards averaging to $736 at the time.

CUNY made it its mission to ensure that undocumented students were also given financial security during the COVID-19 pandemic, as $17 million was raised for the Chancellor’s Emergency Relief Fund.

The CRRSAA also provided CUNY with $337 million to help its 25 campuses with recovery during the 2021-2022 academic year.

A large portion of the funding went to the current fiscal year to help offset campuses’ unplanned costs and make up for lost revenues due to the pandemic. CUNY is working on a budget proposal to present to the CUNY Board of Trustees at its June meeting.

CUNY students expressed their gratitude toward CUNY for providing the financial assistance.

Some took to social media to express their reactions to receiving a grant from the CRRSAA. “Providing pandemic relief eased the burden of paying for college for so many lower income students who may have been struggling as is to afford college,” Lynzie McGeary, a marketing management major, said. “I think that this was a good start that definitely helped people. I think whether or not the money was enough is very subjective.”

According to CUNY, President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which was signed in March, will provide universities across the United States with an additional $35 billion in federal aid.

Half of the funding will be set aside for a potential third round of student emergency grants. The federal government has not yet informed institutions on how much will be given or when they will receive them.