5/29/20 | CARES Act Funding Report from Kathy Heath
As you know, the CARES Act passed by Congress and signed by the President on March 27, 2020 included $438,284 for Maine Maritime Academy to provide emergency financial aid grants to our students for expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus. I’m writing to report on how the funds were distributed.
HOW GRANTS WERE DISTRIBUTED TO STUDENTS:
Maine Maritime Academy determined that the first priority for funding would be for need-based requests, especially from those who are Pell-eligible. In addition, the Academy has a small group of seniors in the majors tied to an unlimited U.S. Coast Guard license who were required to return to campus in late May to complete course requirements as required under U.S. Coast Guard regulations. We reserved funds from the CARES Act allocation to reimburse these students for travel expenses. It was the Academy’s intent, once these funds were disbursed, to divide any remaining funds between all other eligible students who did not already receive a grant. However, need-based requests exceeded the total amount of funding provided by the CARES Act.
To ensure funds were provided to students quickly, a priority deadline for the first round of applications was set for May 20, 2020 (14 days from MMA’s initial announcement). Students were informed of the opportunity to apply via an email sent on May 5, 2020; social media posts on both the main Academy Facebook page and the Parent Association Facebook Page; and a posting on the Academy’s website under both the Financial Aid and COVID-19 Response pages.
The Emergency Relief Fund Committee, chaired by the Director of Financial Aid, reviewed each application and determined the allocation of grants based on the total amount of funds requested as well as the circumstances of each student. The Committee included the Dean of Student Services and the Student Accounts Manager. In addition to eligibility, priority for student emergency funds were based on:
- The urgency of the situation
- The student’s overall financial picture and level of hardship
Only students who are or could be eligible to participate in programs under Section 484 in Title 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 had not filed a FAFSA but who were eligible to file a FAFSA also could receive emergency financial aid grants. As the committee did not have a way to assess need without the FAFSA, applicants for the need-based grants were encouraged to file a FAFSA to be considered. A total of 953 students enrolled in MMA at the time of the transition to remote learning in March of 2020 were eligible to request/receive an emergency financial aid grant. The maximum amount of grant funds allocated to an individual student was capped at $6,000. Awards ranged from $500 to $6,000.
By May 27, 2020, 185 applications were received. The Emergency Relief Fund Committee met and reviewed all of the applications. The committee prioritized the applications: first, applications from Pell recipients, then from those who had financial need but did not receive the federal Pell grant, and then all other applicants.
Each individual application was reviewed based on the student’s current financial aid situation, whether a refund was currently listed on their student account, and on the individual’s situation or extenuating circumstance as described in the application.
The committee analyzed each category the student was requesting funds for and their reason for why they needed it. The committee took loss of work study opportunities, loss of summer co-op earnings, having to travel back to campus to complete a final senior course, unexpected travel arrangements to return home on short notice and other factors into account in determining the final award amounts. A total of 176 requests for financial aid grants were approved. The award amounts did vary from the request in some cases. Nine requests were denied. Students were notified by email regarding the response to their application and checks were sent directly to students beginning May 21, 2020.
Please contact me if you have any questions regarding the CARES Act fund distribution.
Director of Financial Aid