Penn launches initiative to distribute federal COVID relief funds as direct student grants

100% of federal Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds will go to student emergency grants and public health initiatives.

Two masked students walking through Penn Commons.

The University of Pennsylvania is utilizing federal COVID relief funds to launch a new funding initiative today for students enrolled in the 2021-22 academic year. These Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF) are part of $40.5 million in total funding from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA) and the American Rescue Plan (ARP). Penn is using 100% of this funding on direct grants to undergraduate and graduate students with financial need and on student public health initiatives related to COVID-19.

“In accepting this round of federal emergency relief funds, it was very important to us that every dollar have a direct connection to students, either through direct grants to individuals or to support the incredible efforts put in place to protect students’ health over the past year and a half,” says MaryFrances McCourt, vice president for finance and treasurer. “So many of our students and their families have faced financial uncertainty as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we are grateful for the opportunity to distribute federal relief dollars directly to undergraduate and graduate students as they prepare to return to campus this fall.”

This week Student Registration & Financial Services (SRFS) will begin to communicate with eligible returning undergraduate students about the funding. SRFS will communicate with eligible graduate students later in August and will begin reaching out to eligible first-year students on Sept. 1. To receive this federal aid, eligible students must confirm that they have outstanding expenses related to COVID-19 that have not been covered by other sources of financial aid. Students do not need to be U.S. citizens to receive funding.

Based on federal allocation formulas, the University of Pennsylvania was awarded a total of $40.5 million in Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds, including $14.6 million from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act and $25.86 million from the American Rescue Plan. Both funding sources require universities to spend a certain portion of received funding on emergency grants made directly to students with the remainder of funds available to defray institutional expenses associated with the coronavirus pandemic.

“In the coming months, HEERF funds will allow us to support thousands of Penn undergraduate and graduate students,” says Interim Provost Beth Winkelstein. “We know how challenging the COVID-19 pandemic has been for our students and are pleased that eligible students will have great flexibility to use the funds for any component of their cost of attendance or for other emergency costs that have arisen over the past 16 months.”

For more information about how Penn is administering these funds, eligibility requirements and how eligible students can use the funding, review the HEERF FAQ posted on the SRFS website.