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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

CARES fund is on the way

In an effort to bring financial relief, Los Angeles Pierce College launched the CARES Emergency fund for students who have been impacted by COVID-19.

As record unemployment numbers continue to rise throughout Los Angeles County, more complications continue to affect students. 

Hardships students are experiencing include lack of proper technology or equipment to complete school work, inability to pay bills, food insecurity and homelessness.

The emergency fund which aims to alleviate those challenges has been spearheaded by Earic Dixon-Peters, vice president of student services at Pierce College.

“The process for the CARES Emergency fund started last semester because there were some students who were left out of the first $300 allocation,” Dixon-Peters said.It was those students who were not part of that federal government grant that we really wanted to focus on helping to address some of the gaps.”

Originally, the funds generated from the CARES Act stimulus package in which the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund was established to aid students with grants that could help cover expenses related to the disruption caused by the pandemic.

The Department of Education, under Betsy DeVos, enforced community colleges to include United States citizenship as a requirement for students to qualify for the federal grant. This requirement would exclude undocumented students and DACA recipients from the fund.

In response, the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office led by Eloy Ortiz Oakley sued DeVos to eliminate this requirement. 

Ultimately, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California blocked the Department of Education from “enforcing any eligibility requirement for students to receive HEERF emergency financial aid grants with respect to any community college in California,” according to the Department of Education’s website.

Pierce College received a fund of about $900,000 to distribute to students according to Dixon-Peters.

Students experiencing financial hardship resulting from the pandemic can apply for the CARES emergency fund, with the annual maximum being $1,000 per student.

The criteria to qualify for the grant focuses on three areas that indicate general financial hardship. The first area ranges from having difficulty paying bills to getting gas money. Second is the technology aspect where the students either don’t have Wi-Fi or don’t have access to a working electronic device. Third is for students who are experiencing homelessness or food insecurities. 

As of today, there are 442 applications and the committee members have been reviewing the applications,” Director of Financial Aid and Scholarships Anafe Robison said. “Students will receive the funds through the BankMobile process.”

For Joseph Roberson, professor and counselor for the athletic department, it’s crucial for schools to be aware of students who are in need of resources to support their educational endeavors. 

“Sometimes what we don’t see is that on a subconscious level, we can be under so much duress based on issues occurring in our society right now, and that is putting us under a constant level of emotional and psychological strain,” Roberson said. “Anything that contributes to our emotional and psychological well-being and to the stability of our mental health, is a blessing.”

For students interested in the CARES fund, the application is available in the scholarships tab in the Pierce College online portal

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