Tufts received $4.7 million in federal COVID-19 relief under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act which was signed into law on March 27. The CARES Act allocates roughly $2 trillion budgeted to aid individuals and businesses across different sectors.
This money comes on the heels of the news that Tufts anticipates coming in over budget this fiscal year as a result of costs related to the coronavirus pandemic, with an estimated budget deficit of $15 million.
Of the $4.7 million Tufts received, a minimum of $2.3 million must be used to fund emergency financial aid grants for students, according to the CARES Act.
“This funding will provide emergency financial aid grants to students for expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus such as food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and child care expenses,” Patricia Reilly, associate dean of financial aid, wrote in an email to the Daily.
Reilly acknowledged the financial difficulties many students have faced in the last weeks.
“Tufts was very pleased to be notified of this federal funding to provide some additional assistance to our students in financial need during this time,” Reilly said.
Reilly explained that the money will be disbursed appropriately through student accounts, and that the hope is to get this money out within the next two weeks.
However, it’s not clear at this time which students can expect to receive money, nor how much.
“Interpretation of the federal guidance will likely continue to evolve. Each Tufts school is establishing a committee to review requests for emergency funding, and all decisions will be reviewed by the committee,” Reilly said.
Vice President for Finance and Treasurer James Hurley is in touch with executive administrative deans and financial aid directors of each of Tufts’ schools to determine how the $2.3 million student component will be divided and disbursed.
Aside from that amount, there is another $2.4 million that can be spent at Tufts’ discretion.
There is a similar uncertainty around how to spend the $2.4 million.
“We are still working to understand what is allowable under both the institutional and student components of these funds,” Hurley wrote in an email to the Daily. “We are using the most recent guidance provided by the Department of Education and we are engaging with our external advisors as well as peer institutions to understand the appropriate use of these funds.”
Executive Director of Media Relations Patrick Collins said that the advice from the Department of Education will likely continue to change.
“The Department of Education guidance is likely to evolve and interpretation of the guidance will continue to evolve as well … the university will continue to work to understand the allowable use [of] these funds,” Collins wrote in an email to the Daily.
For now, Hurley said, the plan for the institutional component of $2.4 million is to cover costs associated with the changes Tufts has had to make to its teaching practices due to COVID-19 and the resulting transition to online learning.
Examples include using the money to “cover the costs of changes to the delivery of instruction, expand remote learning programs, build IT capacity to support remote learning, train faculty and staff to operate effectively remotely and purchase equipment or software or pay for online licensing fees,” Hurley said.
Hurley also said, however, that it is possible some or all of the additional $2.4 million Tufts received, which has been deemed as “institutional,” could go to students as well. This would be in addition to the $2.3 million that must be awarded to students through the CARES Act.
“Depending on the need that emerges from the schools, we may need to consider using the institutional component for student-related reimbursements,” Hurley said.