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CARES Act/ Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds

The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act authorizes colleges to award Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF) to students for their expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus, such as food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and child-care expenses.

On April 15, 2020 President Kristin G. Esterberg, on behalf of SUNY Potsdam, signed a Certification and Agreement with the U.S. Department of Education, committing SUNY Potsdam to use no less than 50% of funds received under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act to provide Emergency Financial Aid Grants to students. This amounts to $2,194,755  that will be provided to SUNY Potsdam by the federal government to be paid to students directly.

SUNY Potsdam is committed to providing this economic relief money directly to our students in as transparent and expeditious a manner as possible. We will continue to provide updates, through this webpage and periodic reports to the U.S. Department of Education, on our progress in providing these grants to students.

In total 2,786 of our students met the requirement of having a FAFSA on file with our school by June 1, 2020. Of these students 2,744 students were determined to meet the general eligibility criteria to receive funds provided by HEERF.

As of September 30, 2020 SUNY Potsdam has distributed $2,049,228.00 of Emergency Financial Aid Grants to 1,879 students under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act. 

SUNY Potsdam prioritized awarding of Emergency Financial Aid Grants to its students in the following manner:

A base grant amount was offered to all eligible students (please see the FAQs below to better understand the eligibility requirements). Students with the highest level of demonstrated need, based on their Expected Family Contribution (EFC) from FAFSA, were offered a higher level of base grant. Regardless of base grant amount, all eligible students with expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus in excess of the base grant amount offered were given the opportunity to apply for an enhanced grant.

The combined base and enhanced grants that a student receives may not exceed $6,195.

We understand that you may have questions regarding who is eligible to receive these funds, how the money will be distributed, and how receipt of funding may impact your other finances.

Please review the FAQ items below for additional guidance:

Am I eligible for HEERF?

Based on guidance provided by the Department of Education, students must meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • Have or will have allowable expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus 
  • Not be matriculated in an exclusively online academic program
  • Be enrolled during the spring 2020 semester (on or after March 13, 2020)
  • Be a citizen of the United States or legal resident

*A valid FAFSA must be on file with the Financial Aid Office by June 1, 2020 to confirm Title IV aid eligibility

How do I apply for funds?

Eligible students were contacted via email on July 15, 2020 with instructions on the steps needed to confirm they had allowable expenses for HEERF funds through the BearPAWS portal. Students were asked to complete an attestation for the Base Grant and  provided information regarding how to apply for additional funds through the Enhanced Grant application.

*Please note that at this time the Enhanced Grant application has been disabled in BearPAWS. Students can contact for more information on applying for an Enhanced Grant.

What are allowable expenses?

Allowable expenses are defined as expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus, including those under a student's cost of attendance such as food, housing, course materials, technology, health care and childcare.

Examples of expenses you may have incurred include (but are not limited to):

  • Cost of food due to the loss of your university meal plan
  • Cost of internet service due to courses moving online
  • Purchase of a laptop, printer, web camera or other supplies to complete coursework remotely

Examples of expenses that cannot be covered with HEERF Funds:

  • Loss of wages for the student and/or parent/spouse
  • Student Account Balance

If I am eligible, how will I receive funds?

Grants will be delivered via the normal college refund process for students, BankMobile. Students have two options with BankMobile: direct deposit into any checking account of their choice or direct deposit into a BankMobile account.  Please be sure to have your refund preferences set up with BankMobile. Students who have questions or need guidance regarding establishing a preference with BankMobile should email and include their P#.

If I receive a HEERF grant does it mean my SUNY Potsdam account balance has been paid off?

No. Distribution of HEERF is made directly to students and not applied toward any outstanding balances that may still be owed by the student. As such, receipt of these funds does not indicate the recipient has satisfied their financial obligations to SUNY Potsdam for any debts incurred during the spring 2020 term or any terms prior. Please check your current account balance to determine what you may still owe.

Can I use this money to pay off my SUNY Potsdam account balance?

Yes. SUNY Potsdam is not authorized to apply HEERF toward any outstanding balances that may still be owed by a student. However, once the funds are received by the student, he/she may choose to use the funds to pay off his/her outstanding account balance.

Do I have to pay this money back?

No. Any funds a student receives from HEERF will not need to be repaid as they are considered a grant.

Does this money count against my financial aid package?

No. Money from HEERF is not considered financial assistance. As such, these funds will not impact your eligibility for regular financial aid (e.g., grants, scholarships, loans).