(Photo of Cornell's Arts Quad, courtesy of the university)

ITHACA, N.Y. –– Cornell announced this week that they will be distributing $8.5 million to benefit students adversely effected by COVID-19.

“We know students have expenses related to the pandemic that they would not have had otherwise,” said Diane Corbett, executive director of financial aid. “We understand students’ and families’ economic uncertainty right now, and we are keeping our commitment to assist our students, regardless of their circumstances, in the forefront of everything we do.”

Of the $8.5 million, $1 million is being used to benefit students with urgent needs unforeseen when their financial aid packages were calculated. More information about this fund can be found on the Office of Financial Aid and Student Employment website.

However, the majority of funds –– $7.5 million –– comes from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by the federal government in late March and is being used for new “COVID Summer Savings Expectation Grants.” These grants, ranging from $500 to $2,000, will be awarded to around 75% of undergraduate students who receive financial aid, in light of the fact that summer jobs may have been canceled or particularly difficult to obtain due to the pandemic. Students awarded these grants will receive a revised financial aid statement in October.

“This is intended to acknowledge the fact that their summer employment opportunities were not as great as they were supposed to be, and that students might be struggling with bills during this year,”said Jonathan Burdick, vice provost for enrollment. “We know that some of our students in the lowest-income circumstances are among those most likely to live in the communities most hurt by unemployment. So we targeted our funding and support to help those whose circumstances are the hardest.”

This marks the second round of CARES fund distribution for Cornell who received $12.8 million in total from the federal government –– nearly $5 million in emergency grants to more than 4,000 students were granted in the spring semester.

One of the provisions of the CARES act passed in March was that at least 50% of the money received had to be reserved to provide students with emergency financial aid grants to help cover expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus. However, Cornell President Martha Pollack insisted that 100% would be used for students’ benefit, and is now living up to that promise.

“Right at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, Cornell committed to continue to fully meet the needs of all undergraduate students, as we always have, regardless of what that commitment might cost,” Burdick said. “We also committed that every dollar that came in through the CARES Act would be turned around and given to students, and we’re following through on both of those commitments.”

Anna Lamb is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at alamb@ithacavoice.com