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Helping Students Succeed

COVID-19 Updates for Financial Aid Students

Federal Stimulus Emergency Aid Funding

  • The campus has received multiple Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) allocations to administer as emergency financial aid grants to undergraduate and graduate students for expenses directly related to the disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus. Each allocation has its own criteria. Awards will be provided to eligible students based on various need categories.
  • See the FAQ below for additional information. 

Financial Hardship

  • The University understands that families' circumstances may have changed or may change in the coming months as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. If that's your situation, please complete a Special Circumstances Appeal

Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP)

  • On March 30th the Academic Senate approved an amendment to the Emergency Course Continuity (ECC) policy allowing undergraduate students to change the grading option for their course(s) from letter grade to Pass/No Pass up to the final day of instruction of the Spring 2020 semester. This temporary policy was extended into the Fall 2020 semester. P/NP grades will not translate into a GPA. Therefore, if you are receiving financial aid, and are currently on a Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) Appeal due to a low cumulative GPA, you are discouraged from electing to change your grading option from a letter grade to P/NP as it may result in failing to meet the terms of your Appeal.

Federal Student Loan Borrowers

Borrowers currently enrolled:

  • The Federal Government has provided updated guidance to exclude the term(s) that a student does not complete due to a qualifying emergency from counting toward their lifetime subsidized loan eligibility limit.
  • Interest has been suspended for all UC-held Dream Loans through September 30, 2021.

Borrowers already in repayment:

  • The Federal Government has suspended all student loan borrower payments for loans made under the Federal Direct Loan program and Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program for 6 months and halt all interest accrual through September 30, 2021. 
  • The Federal Government has suspended involuntary collections on defaulted loans through September 30, 2021, including wage garnishment, reductions on tax refunds, and reductions of any other Federal benefits including Social Security payments. 
  • Interest, late fees, and collections have been suspended for all UC-held Dream Loans through September 30, 2021.

Private Student Loan Borrowers

  • On April 23, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom announced expanded relief for private student loan borrowers. Please contact your private student loan lender directly if you are struggling to make payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Pell Grant Recipients

  • The Federal Government has provided updated guidance to exclude the term(s) that a student does not complete due to a qualifying emergency from counting toward their 6-year lifetime Pell Grant eligibility limit.

Federal Work-Study

  • Work-Study funding will continue to be available.
  • You must be enrolled and maintain at least 6 units to continue employment under the Work-Study Program.
  • You may continue to work on-campus or remotely if appropriate and approved by your hiring manager.
  • If you are unable to perform your duties remotely due to the campus response to COVID-19, the Department of Education is allowing the campus to continue to pay you for the hours you were scheduled to work. Please coordinate with your hiring manager.
  • If you have an off-campus job in a local school or other eligible employer that has closed as a result of COVID-19, we can continue to pay you for the hours you were scheduled to work. Please submit your timesheet as usual for your scheduled hours.
  • Click here for Undergraduate Student Employment COVID-19 updates.

Study Abroad

  • Each UC Study Abroad program varies and each student’s financial circumstance is unique. Therefore, financial aid recipients who withdraw from a suspended student abroad program should contact their University’s financial aid office to discuss the impact to their aid.
  • If a UCM student returns with units from their UCEAP experience for Spring 2020, they are eligible to enroll Spring Quarter units through ILTI or simultaneous enrollment. Students electing this option must enroll in courses that will count toward their major or degree and are approved by their academic advisor prior to enrollment in either ILTI or another UC campus from an FA perspective. They will need to enroll in enough quarter/semester units that, when combined with the units they earned from UCEAP, they will be enrolled in a minimum of 12 semester units.
  • If a UCM students returns with no units from their UCEAP experience for Spring 2020, they are eligible to enroll in Spring quarter units through ICV. Students electing this option will either have their UCM financial aid cancelled or a withdrawal calculation will be performed to determine how much aid they earned based on the time they were enrolled. Students will then have to apply for financial aid with their host campus for ICV.
  • Travel insurance that students have through UC EAP may cover some costs incurred for study abroad.
  • Students who do not enroll in spring or summer should work with the servicers of their student loans to ensure that they do not use up any grace period or enter repayment. Additional advice can be obtained from the Financial Aid Office.
  • The University of California will need to comply with federal and state financial aid rules that define how much financial aid a student may keep for a term that has been cancelled. However, UC campuses will use their own university financial aid resources, when possible, to assist financial aid recipients who owe the University money.

Teach Grant Recipients Employed in Qualifying School Districts

  • Teach Grant service obligation may be excused for the portion of the service obligation related to the period of emergency if employment was interrupted or reduced to part-time during the period.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF)?
Who can qualify for HEERF funding & how much are the awards?
Are AB540 or students in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program eligible to receive HEERF funds?
What kind of expenses can HEERF funds be used to cover?
What if I have additional COVID-related expenses and need more assistance?
What if I have recently experienced a significant loss of household income due to unemployment, disability, marital separation or divorce, retirement, or death of a parent or spouse?
What is the quickest way for eligible students to receive these funds once awarded?
Do the HEERF Awards need to be repaid?
Are these emergency funds taxable?

On my 2020 personal income tax return, can I claim a tuition and fees deduction for the cost of these materials, or treat the cost of these materials as a qualifying education expense for purposes of claiming the American Opportunity Credit or the Lifetime Learning Credit?
Will HEERF funds reduce my current financial aid award?
Will my HEERF award be credited to any charges due on my student account?
What amount of HEERF funds have been distributed, the number of eligible students, and the number of recipients?

What is the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF)?

HEERF is federal legislation that provides a variety of financial support to individuals and businesses affected by the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) pandemic.

Upon completing a Certification and Agreement for the first stimulus allocation - the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, UC Merced received $13,037,897 in emergency funds. At least $6,518,949 (50%) of this allocation was required to be awarded directly to eligible students who may be experiencing additional financial expenses due to COVID-19. Awards were made for spring and summer 2020. The remaining funds are designated for institutional costs associated with the pandemic.

The second stimulus allocation - The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA), UC Merced received $20,217,509 in emergency funds. At least $$6,518,949 of this allocation is required to be awarded directly to eligible students who may be experiencing additional financial expenses due to COVID-19. Awards are being made for fall 2020, spring 2021, and summer 2021. The remaining funds are designated for institutional costs associated with the pandemic.

The third stimulus allocation - The American Rescue Plan (ARP), UC Merced will be receiving $35,115,000 in emergency funds. At least $17,557,500 (50%) of this allocation is required to be awarded directly to eligible students who may be experiencing additional financial expenses due to COVID-19. We plan to make awards for the 2021-22, and 2022-23 academic years.

Who can qualify for HEERF funding and how much are the awards?


*Foster Youth is defined as being Foster Care since turning age 13 as indicated on your FAFSA.
** Stop-outs are defined as students who attended in fall 2020, did not earn a degree, and did not re-enroll in spring or summer 2021. 
***HEERF Self-Certification Form (See criteria listed above)

Are AB540 or students in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program eligible to receive HEERF funds? 

Although undocumented students are not eligible for this federal funding, the UC system and UC Merced are committed to providing institutional support to assist AB540 students who complete a Dream Application, to the extent possible.

What kind of expenses can HEERF funds be used to cover?

Funds must be used for expenses you have incurred (or will incur) related to the disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus. These expenses include but are not limited to: food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and childcare. You may be asked at some point to provide substantiation that such expenses were (1) related to COVID-19 campus disruption, and (2) actually incurred and paid by you, and you should be prepared to provide such substantiation if ever requested.

What if I have additional COVID-related expenses and need more assistance? 

There are additional resources available for emergency food and housing through our Basic Needs Office and our Dean of Students Office. Students may also submit a Financial Aid Cost of Attendance Adjustment Form to request additional assistance.

What if I have recently experienced a significant loss of household income due to unemployment, disability, marital separation or divorce, retirement, or death of a parent or spouse?

You may submit a Financial Aid Special Circumstances Appeal Form with supporting documentation for the 2020-21 academic year.

What is the quickest way for eligible students to receive these funds once awarded?

The quickest way to receive your payment is to sign up for direct deposit by logging into your UC Merced Connect portal and completing the online EFT form. Do not use your debit card account number for direct deposit. 

Do the HEERF Awards need to be repaid?

No, money received through this fund does not need to be repaid.

Are these emergency funds taxable?

The Internal Revenue Service issued frequently asked questions on how students and higher education institutions should report pandemic-related emergency financial aid grants.

Students
Emergency financial aid grants made by a federal agency, state, Indian tribe, higher education institution or scholarship-granting organization (including a tribal organization) to a student because of an event related to the COVID-19 pandemic are not included in the student’s gross income.

Also, students should not reduce an amount of qualified tuition and related expenses by the amount of an emergency financial aid grant. If students used any portion of the grants to pay for qualified tuition and related expenses on or before December 31, 2020, they may be eligible to claim a tuition and fees deduction or the American Opportunity Credit or Lifetime Learning Credit on their 2020 tax return. See Education FAQs.

The tuition and fees deduction is not available for tax years beginning after December 31, 2020. For additional information on these credits and the tuition and fees deduction, see Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education.

Higher Education Institutions
Because students don’t include emergency financial aid grants in their gross income, higher education institutions are not required to file or furnish Forms 1099-MISC reporting the grants made available by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) or the COVID-related Tax Relief Act (COVID Relief Act) and do not need to report the grants in Box 5 of Form 1098-T. But any amounts that qualify for the tuition and fees deduction or the American Opportunity Credit or Lifetime Learning Credit are considered “qualified tuition and related expenses” and trigger the reporting requirements of Internal Revenue Code section 6050S. Higher education institutions must include qualified tuition and related expenses paid by emergency financial aid grants awarded to students in Box 1 of Form 1098-T.

The HEERF CARES Act Emergency financial aid grants are for unexpected expenses, unmet financial need, or expenses related to the disruption of campus operations on account of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unexpected expenses include food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and childcare. The CARES Act financial aid grant payments are qualified disaster relief payments as defined under Internal Revenue Code Section 139.

On my 2020 personal income tax return, can I claim a tuition and fees deduction for the cost of these materials, or treat the cost of these materials as a qualifying education expense for purposes of claiming the American Opportunity Credit or the Lifetime Learning Credit?

According to the IRS website, the HEERF CARES Act Emergency financial aid grants are not includible in your gross income, you cannot claim any deduction or credit for expenses paid with the grant including the tuition and fees deduction, the American Opportunity Credit, or the Lifetime Learning Credit. This is further discussed in Revenue Code Section 139(h).

Will HEERF funds reduce my current financial aid award?

No, these funds will not reduce or replace financial aid, and it is a one-time federal emergency grant.

Will my HEERF award be credited to any charges due on my student account? 

Federal guidelines require that CARES Act funds are refunded directly to students. However, for CRRSAA and ARP funds, and institution may allow students to provide a written request to apply their funds to their university account balance.

What amount of HEERF funds have been distributed, the number of eligible students, and the number of recipients? 

HEERF I Monthly Reports

How can I view the CARES Act / HEERF Quarterly Reporting Form?