Emergency Assistance Fund offers help to students struggling financially due to coronavirus. Collegian File Photo.
ANNIE FAULKNER | STAFF REPORTER | firstname.lastname@example.org
The coronavirus pandemic has turned life upside down for people across the world. While Americans have had to make changes over the past month due to social-distancing protocols, many people have faced severe financial consequences as a result of the crisis. In the past four weeks, 17 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits.
The Butler community has not been immune to these financial impacts, but there is a resource for students who may be in need of financial assistance at this time. The Butler Emergency Assistance Fund provides emergency funds to students who are facing unforeseen financial hardship. During the school year, this fund typically helps students with problems such as medical expenses, transportation needs and living expenses. The funds are only available if the expense immediately impacts a student’s success at Butler.
In response to the coronavirus resulting in the cancelation of in-person classes and events on Butler’s campus for the remainder of the semester, SGA donated $30,000 from their operating budget to the Emergency Assistance Fund. These funds could have rolled over into SGA’s budget for the upcoming school year, but SGA president Malin Peterson said that SGA decided donating the money to the Butler community was a better plan.
“For students that need support or a helping hand financially, I can’t think of a better way to give back to students directly,” Peterson, a senior youth and community development major, said.
In an email to The Butler Collegian, Melissa Smurdon, the director of financial aid, said the fund has received an increased volume of applications since the coronavirus outbreak began. The most common reasons for applications are food and housing insecurity.
“Butler is pleased this fund exists to support students in these unprecedented times,” Smurdon said in an email. “This has been especially the case recently as many students have lost employment and income. In the case of a student living off campus or not able to return home, the help needed is immediate.”
Smurdon also said the financial aid office has been working with Butler’s IT department to help students arrange, pay for and set up WiFi access at their homes.
Depending on how much is needed, students typically receive between $100 and $1,500 from the fund, intended to fulfill a specific financial need. Students are only allowed to apply once per semester.
Peterson described the process of applying for the Emergency Assistance Fund.
“[Students will be asked to describe] what the circumstances are, how much money it’s going to require, what kind of assistance it is,” Peterson said. “You might be asked to meet with Sally Click, our dean of students, and then in collaboration with Sally and the financial aid office, they figure out how they can best support students and what kind of financial assistance they are able to offer.”
Kaitlyn Thornton, a sophomore psychology major, is glad that Butler provides this resource to students, especially given how many students are currently unable to work.
“I know Butler had a huge working population on campus,” Thornton said, “And with everything going on, they might have work at home, but everything is closed down now. And there aren’t really places hiring right now, so it’s difficult. Especially with not having materials that they need to work from home, [the emergency assistance fund] definitely can help with that.”
Peterson said while the Emergency Assistance Fund is a great resource for students to utilize at this time, it will still be available to students after this is over.
“This is something that is used by Butler students right now, in a global crisis, but I think what is also important to recognize is that this is an ongoing resource for students and it has been for some time now,” Peterson said.