ASU to distribute cash grants from the CARES Act at a later date

The CARES Act provided the University with $31.8 million to distribute to students who are deemed eligible

ASU will wait to distribute the $31.8 million provided by the coronavirus relief bill for students affected by the coronavirus pandemic until the summer.

The University has over a year to distribute the funds to students, which will be used over that period “to help students successfully continue and complete their education," ASU spokesperson Katie Paquet said in an email. 

“We are looking at need across the university for summer school and the fall and will determine allocation amounts, which, as we have previously stated, will be used to help students continue and complete their education,” Paquet said. “Students who were enrolled during the spring semester and are continuing with the university may be eligible for funds.”

Paquet said that distribution will begin this summer but there is not currently "an exact timeline" for when students can expect to see the funds.

The Arizona Republic reported that ASU President Michael Crow said the funds will be used to help students stay in school.

Crow told the Republic that the University has already helped students during the spring semester who needed it and that “in a sense we (ASU) felt that we had successfully helped our students to be able to be to complete that semester.”

Students in need of more immediate financial assistance should fill out a special circumstances form online and submit it, Paquet said.

The University received a total of $63.5 million from the Department of Education under the CARES Act. Half must go to students in the form of cash grants, while the remaining funds are up to the University to determine what they will do with them.

For over a month, the funds have been available for the University to use once they determined how they would distribute it, Paquet said. 

READ MORE: University still identifying how to distribute CARES Act funds 

Students and parents alike have expressed disappointment in the lack of transparency the University has shown regarding the funds.

Mellissa Dowd, a junior studying biological sciences, works as a waitress at a restaurant where the majority of her income comes from tips. Since the restaurant has moved to take-out service only, that income has significantly dried up, she wrote in a message to The State Press.

A month ago, Dowd and her husband began showing symptoms of COVID-19, prompting them to isolate for 14 days, resulting in a further reduction of their income. Dowd is now behind on bills and has "had to put expenses on a credit card to make ends meet."

"I’ve been checking for updates from ASU about the CARES Act grants since the day the CARES Act was passed," Dowd said. "I was going to use this money to get ahead on my credit card and to pay off some leftover fees I owe ASU. I absolutely was relying on this money to come through."

Because of ASU's plan to defer distributing these funds until the summer only to currently enrolled students, Dowd's husband, who just graduated from ASU, will be unable to receive a cash grant.

"These grants were meant to help students affected financially by COVID-19," Dowd said. "Not necessarily to ensure students stay enrolled in school ... I now have doubts that I will even see any money in the fall seeing how they are leaving us without assistance when the need is greatest."

Pam Ottman, a parent of an ASU student, said that while other universities have been transparent and supportive of students and their families, she and others have heard nothing but "crickets" from ASU. 

Not distributing cash grants to students now despite the widespread financial burdens students and families are facing is another misstep by the University, which may cause her daughter to attend a different school, Ottman said.

"A lot of these kids don't have the backup of their parents," Ottman said. " ... they had jobs and now they don't and they can't afford their rent. Some of them may not even be able to afford food right now because they're not working and that money could really help them."

Posts to Twitter and the ASU subreddit page have expressed disappointment with the University’s recent decision, with users stating that students need help now and that even smaller payments to students across the University would greatly benefit all as this “affects nearly everyone somewhat,” one comment said.

Paquet noted that the guidelines from the DOE “give universities significant discretion on how to award these funds to students and is allowing each institution to develop its own system and process for determining allocations,” enabling the University to distribute the funds in the way it believes will benefit students best.


Reach the reporter at wmyskow@asu.edu and follow @wmyskow on Twitter. 

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