Penn State was allotted nearly $85 million from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund II as part of the federal Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA), which was signed into law on Dec. 27, 2020. As prescribed by law, at least $27.5 million of Penn State’s allocation will be awarded to students in the form of emergency financial aid grants, matching the dollar amount Penn State students received last year under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Penn State will again distribute the student grants via two rounds of funding. In the first round, the University will award grants to more than 23,000 students. These first-round grants prioritize students with exceptional financial need, as required by the CRRSAA, based on data from the 2020-21 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Students who are Pell Grant-eligible will each be offered $1,200, and all other students identified for an award will be offered $1,000 each.

The University also will award grants via a second round of funding that will use an application process to support students in need who were not identified to receive funding during the first round. Details about this application-based second round of funding will be shared broadly in the near future.

A CRRSAA grant may be used to cover any component of a student’s cost of attendance or for emergency costs that arise due to COVID-19, including tuition, food, housing, health care (including mental health care), and child care, provided that the expense was incurred on or after March 13, 2020.

When accepting the grant in LionPATH, students must affirm that the money will be used in accordance with the CRRSAA for costs incurred due to the pandemic or for expenses related to their cost of attendance.

Students who are offered a first-round grant will receive notification via their Penn State email account from the Office of Student Aid. The subject line on the email will be “CRRSAA Award.” Students will need to follow the instructions provided to accept or decline the funding in LionPATH, or to request a lower award amount based on their individual circumstances. Once they accept their award, students will be able to choose if they would like the money to be refunded to them directly, applied to an outstanding balance on their student account for spring 2021, or a combination of the two options.

Students requesting a refund will be provided with information on how to enroll in eRefund to receive the funds via direct deposit, or to update their bank account information for eRefund. Students who do not enroll in eRefund will have a paper check sent to their permanent address on file.

No. The student emergency grants do not have to be paid back.

No. The emergency grants will not be counted as estimated financial assistance in the current year of the award, and therefore will not impact other aid resources, nor as income for federal student aid purposes for future years of eligibility.

According to the Internal Revenue Service, emergency financial aid granted to a student by an institution of higher education because of an event related to the COVID-19 pandemic is not included in the student’s gross income and is not taxable.

Yes. Grant recipients include undergraduate, graduate, law and medical students at all Penn State campuses, including students enrolled in Penn State World Campus.

Undergraduate, graduate and professional students at all Penn State campus locations who were not identified for a grant during the first round of funding will be able to apply for a grant in the second round once that application process opens.

Yes. Penn State is awarding grants to students based on financial need, regardless of if they received prior assistance in the form of a CARES Act or Student Emergency Fund grant.

No. Penn State used the 2020-21 FAFSA to identify students with the greatest financial need for the first round of CRRSAA student emergency grants, whereas CARES Act grants were awarded based on 2019-20 FAFSA data. In addition, the pool of eligible students was larger for CRRSAA grants with the inclusion of World Campus students.

Recognizing that not all students have completed a 2020-21 FAFSA and that the finances of many students and their families may have changed dramatically due to the pandemic, Penn State will open an application-based second round of funding for students who were not identified to receive a grant in the initial round. Students who have not filed a 2020-21 FAFSA are encouraged to do so now to help determine eligibility for these federal funds. Details about this second round of funding will be shared broadly as soon as possible.

Complete Penn State provides resources such as financial aid for students who are within one or two semesters of completing their first associate or bachelor’s degree and experience a situation that negatively impacts their ability to complete their degree. Eligible students are invited to request support here.

For assistance in navigating state and federal assistance programs, Student Affairs’ Guide to Public Assistance website can help. In addition, the Office of Student Care and Advocacy can assist students with financial issues and help students apply for the Student Emergency Fund. 

Penn State encourages any student experiencing mental health distress to reach out to local campus and community resources. For emergent mental health needs, Penn State’s 24/7 Crisis Line is available at 877-229-6400 for enrolled students or individuals concerned about enrolled students. The Penn State Crisis Text Line is also available for 24/7 mental health support by texting “LIONS” to 741741. Individuals supporting students can learn more about how to help students in distress via the University’s Red Folder website.