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SMC Distributes More Than $6 Million to Students Hardest Hit By COVID-19 Shutdown
 

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By Jorge Casuso

May 21, 2020 -- Returning Santa Monica College (SMC) sophomore Joselyn Acosta is using her coronavirus relief money to turn her gas back on and pay her electric bill.

Victor Gil, who participates in SMC’s Adelante Program, will use the one-time emergency funding to help his unemployed parents make ends meet during the coronavirus shutdown.

Acosta and Gil are among an estimated 5,000 SMC students expected to qualify for $6.1 million in direct aid funding from the federal CARES Act and the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF).

The checks being distributed -- which range from $350 to $1,000 -- will help "ease the hardship of students who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic," college officials said.

"Many have already received checks," officials said, "and more students will see funds arrive in the coming weeks."

Among the first institutions to apply for the funding, SMC was also awarded another $6.1 million to cover the costs of disrupting classes and services and transition to "an online environment," officials said.

"Santa Monica College students are hardworking and highly motivated individuals,” said Dr. Kathryn E. Jeffery, SMC Superintendent and President.

“Many of them, even under ‘normal’ circumstances, persist in seeking to make better lives for themselves and their families -- through higher education -- under great odds.

"This pandemic has disrupted the lives and livelihoods of thousands of them, and the financial assistance through the CARES Act will truly make a difference,” Jeffery said.

SMC established a committee to determine a student's eligibility and make sure the emergency relief aid is given to those who need it most.

The committee reviews students who completed a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and meet certain other criteria, including qualifying for the CCPG (Community College Promise Grant) for low-income students and affiliation with one or more of SMC’s extensive student support programs.

A short survey also asked students if they were having problems paying for food or housing, had lost income due to the COVID-19 crisis and were taking care of others.

In addition to the financial aid, SMC case managers are providing emotional support to students and helping them secure housing, food, and other basic needs to continue their education, college officials said.

“I have always been impressed by the level of commitment and resilience demonstrated by our students, faculty, and staff," said Teresita Rodriguez, VP of Enrollment Development and head of the committee.

"But during this very challenging time, I am amazed at the power of our community in coming together at a time of crisis,” Rodriguez said.

For information on SMC’s response to COVID-19, visit smc.edu/coronavirus.


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