Office of Student Financial Aid, Open Seat provides support for struggling students during COVID-19 closures The Badger Herald


The University of Wisconsin-Madison campus and community of Madison are now providing resources for students in financial difficulty during the COVID-19 pandemic to provide food and emergency funds.

Office of Student Financial Aid communications director Karla Weber said her office has been working to get students the financial help they may need since the university started counseling students. not to return to campus after spring break. Weber said the Office of Student Financial Aid provides emergency funds for students who may need financial support to return home, access technology, pay bills or cover any other need.

“Our priority… has been to respond to student inquiries and try to get them funds as quickly as possible,” Weber said. “We still have emergency funds available, so we continue to encourage students [to reach out]. “

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Weber said students can follow the link on the Office of Student Financial Aid home page or send an e-mail to [email protected] or the specific COVID-19 email, [email protected]

The Office of Student Financial Aid cannot hold in-person meetings at this time, but Weber said students are encouraged to call or email to ask any questions they may have. Additionally, Weber said students who have regular questions about financial aid can also contact the office. the office is still processing financial aid packages for incoming freshmen.

“The hardest part, I think, especially for our students, is the unknown,” Weber said. “It’s unclear how long this will last and what some of the financial implications will be in the weeks and months to come, so we’ll continue to stand up for the students. “

UW sophomore Daniel O’Brien said the emergency fund request process was quick and easy. After filling out the form, O’Brien received an email a few days later informing him that he had gotten the money he requested.

The Office of Student Financial Aid sent a check a few days later. O’Brien said the whole process only took a week. Students who have eRefund active at their student center will see the money deposited directly into their account.

“Even though I’m home now… I still have to pay the rent on my apartment, which really worried me, being out of work now,” O’Brien said.

The university announcement Hourly employees of March 24 students and federal work-study students will benefit from income maintenance for the weeks of March 23 and March 30.

According to a statement from the university, UW will pay federal students on a work-study basis at their regular rate for ten hours per week. Hourly student workers will be paid $ 130 per week, which is the average weekly salary of hourly student workers on campus. The university will pay working students on April 9 and 23 by direct deposit.

“Because [income continuation] is a very important budgetary consideration, we will let the students know as soon as we know what UW is capable of doing for them, ”Weber said.

O’Brien, who works as a student supervisor for UW Housing, said he would also receive a continuation of income from the university, which he had not initially expected. O’Brien said he was grateful for the university to offer payment to student hourly workers who cannot work during this time.

While the $ 130 is less than what O’Brien would earn in a normal pay period, he said it was still helpful in covering the cost of food and other necessities during that time.

“[The university] certainly didn’t have to, they chose to do it to help students, especially those who really rely on their work to pay their bills, ”said O’Brien. “I think it was really great that they did this, and I think it shows that they care about their employees.”

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O’Brien said he knew that for many students, the $ 130 per pay period might not be enough to cover expenses. For students in this situation, he said tapping into other resources on campus can help fill in the gaps, as he did.

For students needing help supplementing their food budget, Madison Associate Students Open seat is still running. Open Seat external director Yogev Ben-Yitschak said Open Seat works from Union South while the student activity center, the usual pantry location, is closed.

Second Harvest provides Open Seat with prepackaged food boxes to distribute – they weigh 10 pounds for an individual and 25 pounds for a household of 4, Ben-Yitschak said. Students can request a box through Open Seat’s form and pick up their food the following Tuesday at Union South between 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m.

Previously, students using the pantry could choose the items they wanted, but during the pandemic the boxes will be prepackaged, Ben-Yitschak said.

“We want to minimize the time people spend with each other because it’s a small pantry,” Ben-Yitschak said. “The average time spent in the pantry is about 20 minutes, which is a long time to be within six feet of each other.”

More people than expected visited Open Seat, said Ben-Yitschak. Even with many students leaving campus and a decrease in the number of people leaving home due to COVID-19, Open Seat has still seen around 100 customers and more and more people continue to fill out application forms when they are. realize that Open Seat is running, said Ben-Yitschak.

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Ben-Yitschak said students can help support Open Seat by educating others about the pantry and encouraging people to fill out their application forms if they are currently food insecure. Second Harvest is providing free food packages to Open Seat at the moment, but Open Seat is still accepting donations to cover other costs and future food costs, Ben-Yitschak said.

“I was really worried and nervous about how this whole operation would work,” said Ben-Yitschak. “I was pleasantly surprised at how much the university came together around Open Seat and financial aid.”

Open Seat has received help from donors and the university, and Ben-Yitschak said Open Seat is grateful for the help.

For other sources of support, Weber said students can consult the Office of Student Financial Aid. Web page for more resources offered by the university.

Weber also said students and staff should contact UHS if they feel overwhelmed or scared during this time.

“We all have to take a deep breath together and say ‘OK we’re going to be fine,’” Weber said. “We’re all going to be here together to get through this. “