On April 14, the University of Maine System announced that it would be seeking a way to provide financial support for UMaine students after receiving counsel from the U.S. Department of Education. The initiative is part of the university’s use and allocation of federally granted Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). The CARES Act, which received House and Senate approval on March 27, is an act which seeks to provide financial assistance to Americans affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
The University of Maine System received $17.2 million in federal CARES Act funding to support the University of Maine System institutions. As part of the CARES Act allocation requirements, $8.63 million of these funds must be made available as direct emergency grants to students. Chancellor Dannel Malloy announced that he would be meeting on April 14 with the presidents of the University of Maine System institutions and that the distribution of CARES Act funding would be finalized on April 21.
The chancellor also announced that the University of Maine System would be continuing to provide financial compensation to non-work-study students. As part of the decision to move all courses to an online, remote learning format, many student workers lost their income due to on-campus jobs being cut. As of March 14, work-study students were told that the rest of their work-study allocation would be made available, but after those students claimed the work-study award, they would not have a source of income.
As of April 3, the University of Maine System made the decision to extend remote work operations until at least May 17. This decision also affected student workers, who would not have a job to return to as the semester ends on May 8.
“We will work to continue our commitment to our non-federal work-study students as well – they will continue to receive pay through May 2,” Malloy said in a statement.
This decision will have a huge impact on the UMaine student community, as many students faced looming rent and utility payments.
Kevin Fitzpatrick, a third-year political science student posted Molloy’s announcement onto the UMaine Memes for Drunken Teens Facebook page, a page where UMaine students share memes and occasionally petitions and public notices.
“If this is real life, I’ll cry,” Katelyn Walsh, a second-year communication disorders student commented on the post.
The relief of having reliable income until the end of the semester has eased many students in their transition to online classes, as many are finding it difficult to cope with being left out of stimulus checks provided by the CARES Act. The act authorizes stimulus payments of $1200 to adults who have filed their 2018 taxes, $2400 to married couples who filed jointly in 2018, and $500 to each household dependent under 17. However, since many students qualify as dependents, they are not considered to receive stimulus checks. For many students who support themselves but do not make enough money to file independently from their parents, this has left them without financial support or options. For students who have been excluded from refunds, federal aid and work-study awards, having the support of a reliable paycheck until the end of the semester will provide much-needed stability for college students who have adapted to fast-paced change in a very short period of time.