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Monday, July 26, 2021
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UW HEERF II funding depleted, student leaders wary of university response

As of March 18, the UW has distributed all financial relief allocated by the High Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF II) to students, pushing some students to advocate for more financial aid from the university. 

The CARES Act is a $2.2 trillion dollar relief package passed by the federal government last March that created HEERF — which was renewed December — to address the financial tolls faced by students as a result of COVID-19. 

Students are utilizing this aid to pay for basic necessities such as rent, food and costs associated with attending UW-Madison. 

Some students remain disappointed with the university’s actions as they express worries about the UW’s choice to disperse the minimum amount of relief required by the federal government, among other issues relating to COVID-19 financial relief. 

“It is really concerning that the UW admin refuses to use their vast amount of resources to support students,” said Associated Students of Madison Chair Matthew Mitnick. 

“ASM asked the admin weeks ago about what would be the plan when the HEERF funds inevitably round out,” continued Mitnick. “They had no answer for us then, and it appears that they have no answer for us now.”

UW-Madison allocated 93% of the $9.9 million provided by the federal fund to about 18% of the student population, according to the university. 

The additional $20 million — not distributed to students — will be utilized for other purposes within the university. The funds are intended to support departments like Recreation & Wellbeing as well as the Wisconsin Union, which Mitnick describes as units that “have had their finances mismanaged to such a large extent that it is now falling on the backs of students.”

University Spokesperson Meredith McGlone maintains that the Office of Student Financial Aid remains committed to working with students in identifying additional sources of emergency financial aid, ensuring that they are receiving all of the aid they qualify for. 

“In addition to the federal support, we have actively engaged in fundraising efforts to further support students’ needs,” said McGlone, highlighting the Financial Aid Office's Basic Needs Resources page listing options available to students for additional financial assistance. 

Mitnick is discouraged by these efforts, emphasizing that the “university really hasn’t invested any of its accumulated wealth into its students” beside a “very small amount of private funds from the foundation.” 

Still, the university is looking into how to further aid financially-impacted students.

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“We plan to continue providing emergency support by request on an ongoing basis after the student grant portion of HEERF II has been fully awarded and disbursed,” continued McGlone. 

Earlier this month, the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan was passed, including approximately $40 billion for higher education intended to extend HEERF through September of 2023

“The third round of HEERF funding is coming to UW, and they have given us zero indication as to whether they will spend it on students,” said Mitnick. “If the past is any indication, they [will] continue giving students the bare minimum — which is certainly not enough to get by for the rest of the semester for many.” 

“HEERF III which was just signed last week by President Biden, may provide the institution with an even larger amount of funding for direct student support than HEERF I or II,” said McGlone. “We are awaiting further details.” 

For now, the application for COVID-19 relief for UW students will return to the MyUW Student Center on Tuesday, March 23. Students that face financial emergencies before this date should contact finaid@finaid.wisc.edu, according to the Office of Student Financial Aid. 

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