On April 10, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced that it is making available over $6 billion to institutions of higher education for emergency financial aid grants, to be provided directly to students for expenses related to disruptions in education caused by COVID-19, including course materials and technology, food, housing, health care, and childcare. The guidance from ED does not instruct institutions on how to provide emergency financial aid to students, but does encourage leaders to prioritize those students with the greatest need.

This funding was provided through the CARES Act, the third major coronavirus legislation passed by Congress. An additional $6 billion will be made available to institutions to cover costs associated with significant changes to the delivery of instruction. A list of institutions that will receive CARES Act higher education funding, including the minimum allocation for emergency financial aid grants, is here. 

SchoolHouse Connection urges institutions to prioritize youth experiencing homelessness and youth from foster care for emergency financial aid. 

  • As documented by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, youth experiencing homelessness and youth from foster care face significant challenges in completing higher education. Lack of family and other adult support, coupled with severe poverty and histories of neglect, abuse, trauma, and mobility, jeopardize their health and safety, and erect barriers in their path to and through post-secondary education. 
  • The loss of campus housing due to school closures, and the loss of income due to job loss, have created additional barriers, and caused even more youth to experience homelessness.

Here’s what financial aid administrators, academic deans, higher education and student affairs professionals can do:

  • Reach out to youth under age 24 who were independent students on their most recent FAFSA. This will include unaccompanied homeless youth, youth from foster care, and parenting youth.
  • Reach out to youth who have been displaced from campus, and youth who have disengaged from on-line classes, to inform them of the availability of aid and how to access it.

Here’s what McKinney-Vento liaisons, homeless service providers, and foster youth advocates can do:

  • Reach out to their higher education partners to offer assistance in locating and informing youth about the availability of emergency financial aid, and how to access it.

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