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The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act is the largest economic relief bill ever passed in the United States, offering $2.2 trillion to support people and businesses affected by the pandemic.

As part of the CARES Act, the federal government will issue Economic Impact Payments to American households of up to $1,200 per adult and $500 for each child. Individuals with income up to $75,000 or $150,000 for couples filing jointly will get the full $1200 each, with the amount of the payment reduced by $5 for every $100 in additional income, up to $99,000. You do not need to do anything to get this payment, it will automatically be issued in the same way you receive tax refunds. For more information please visit the Treasury Department here, or the IRS here. The most comprehensive and up-to-date information is through the Economic Impact Payment Information Center.

The CARES Act also increased unemployment benefits in several ways through Pandemic Unemployment Insurance:

  • An additional $600 per week will be paid by the federal government for four months, on top of your regular unemployment benefits. So if you were receiving $300 per week from your state unemployment, you will now receive $900 per week for four months.
  • The Act increased the number of weeks your state unemployment benefits will last by 13 weeks, from 26 to 39 total weeks.
  • It also expanded access to self-employed workers, freelancers, and contractors who typically don’t qualify for unemployment benefits.

Some additional provisions in the CARES Act include an extension in the tax filing deadline to July 15th, student loan benefits, free coronavirus tests, and requirements that all private insurance companies cover all COVID-19 treatments.

Higher Education Emergency Relief

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Sections 3504, 18004, and 18008 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), enacted on March 27, 2020, allow higher education institutions to use certain funds allocated by the Department of Education to support students and higher education institutions with expenses and financial needs related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Section 3504 of the CARES Act allows higher education institutions to use additional supplemental educational opportunity grant funds they receive through the Higher Education Act to award emergency financial aid grants to support graduate and undergraduate students experiencing “unexpected expenses and unmet financial need” as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Section 18004 of the CARES Act directs the Secretary of Education to allocate funds out of the Higher Education Relief Fund to higher education institutions to directly support students facing urgent needs related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and to support institutions as they cope with the immediate effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including school closures. These funds may be used (1) to defray the institutions’ expenses, including lost revenues and payroll for employees and (2) for “emergency financial aid grants to students for expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic (including eligible expenses under a student’s cost of attendance, such as food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and child care).” Recipient higher education institutions must pay no less than 50 percent of these funds to students as emergency financial aid grants.

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Am I Eligible?

Only students who are or could be eligible to participate in programs under Section 484 inTitle IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (HEA), may receive emergency financial aid grants. If a student has filed a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), then the student has demonstrated eligibility to participate in programs under Section 484 the HEA. Students who have not filed a FAFSA but who are eligible to file a FAFSA also may receive emergency financial aid grants. The criteria to participate in programs under Section 484 of the HEA include but are not limited to the following: U.S. citizenship or eligible noncitizen; a valid Social Security number; registration with Selective Service (if the student is male); and a high school diploma, GED, or completion of high school in an approved homeschool setting.

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