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COVID-19 Updates for Financial Aid Students

CARES Act Funding

  • The campus has received federal CARES Act funds 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. Awards will be provided to eligible students based on dependency status and need category for the spring and summer 2020 terms. We will be awarding funds throughout the next few weeks.
  • 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. 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 is excluding 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, 2020.

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, 2020. 
  • The Federal Government has suspended involuntary collections on defaulted loans for 6 months, 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, 2020.

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

  • 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 for the Spring term.
  • 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.

CARES ACT Frequently Asked Questions

What is the CARES Act?

The CARES Act 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 federal CARES Act funding, UC Merced received $13,037,897 in emergency funds. At least $6,518,949 (50%) of this allocation is required to be awarded directly to eligible students who may be experiencing additional financial expenses due to COVID-19. The remaining funds are designated for institutional costs associated with the pandemic. 

Who can qualify for CARES Act funding?

Students qualify if they have filed a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) that has been successfully processed. The criteria to have a FAFSA successfully processed includes, but are not limited to: be a US Citizen or eligible non-citizen; have a valid Social Security Number; registration with Selective Service (if the student is male); and being admitted to an eligible program of study. Students must also meet each of the following eligibility criteria:

  • Currently enrolled in spring and/or summer (in any units);
  • Did not receive a prorated housing adjustment in the spring semester;
    • Students who received a housing adjustment may still be eligible for a special circumstance award or a summer award if enrolled.
    • Note: when prorated housing adjustments were made, the campus decided not to adjust the financial aid Cost of Attendance and student aid for moving from on-campus to home. We did this so that students would receive immediate funds to assist them with expenses related to the campus response to COVID-19. This benefit was not afforded to students who were already living off-campus or at home and commuting.
  • Not enrolled through UC Merced Extension or in a non-degreed program, with the exception of the Teacher Preparation Program.

Are AB540 or students in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program eligible to receive CARES Act grants? 

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 should the CARES Act grant 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.

How much will I qualify for?

*Foster Youth is defined as being in Foster Care since turning age 13 as indicated on your FAFSA. 

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 are the deadlines to apply?

Students must complete a FAFSA and submit any required documents no later than June 1 to qualify for a CARES Act grant payment. Summer awards were made to students enrolled in summer courses as of 05/06/2020. Additional awards will be made to students that enroll after that date if funding becomes available. Graduate students are asked to complete an aid application by May 15.

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 myUCMerced web portal account and completing the online EFT form. Do not use your debit card account number for direct deposit. 

Do the CARES Act grants need to be repaid?

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

Are the CARES Act funds taxable?

According to the IRS website, no.The CARES Act emergency financial aid grants are not taxable or reportable gross income. The CARES Act aid grants are not reportable by the University to the students on IRS Form 1098-T.

The 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, no. Because the emergency financial aid grant is 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 Internal Revenue Code Section 139(h).

Will CARES Act funding 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 CARES Act award be credited to any charges due on my student account? 

No. Federal guidelines require that CARES Act funds are refunded directly to students. 

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