First CARES Act grants on the way to CSU students

Students facing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic started receiving the first payments of emergency federal funds. File photo by CSU Photography

The first payments of emergency funds available to Colorado State University students facing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic were disbursed on May 5.

Applications for the federal funds opened at 8 a.m. on Monday, May 4, and according to Joe Donlay, director of the Office of Financial Aid, his office had received 2,200 requests by 9 a.m. Tuesday. Financial Aid staff have been reviewing them as quickly as possible with the goal of informing students of their decision within five business days of filing the application, which is available to students on RamWeb.

CSU received $8.8 million for direct student payments from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security – or CARES – Act signed into law at the end of March.

“It took quite a bit of time for the Department of Education to provide direction on how institutions could spend the money,” Donlay explained. “Then there was a good deal of thoughtfulness that went into how we could get the funds to the students. We moved the process along as quickly as we could given the guidance attached to the funds.”

Determining what the DoE expected and how CSU could implement the program may have taken a month, but Donlay said that the University is still among the first schools in the nation to begin making the payments, which range between $500 and $1,500, depending on individual student needs.

These payments are made directly to students; CSU will disburse the funds but will not retain any amounts, even if students have an outstanding balance with the university, Donlay said.

According to the federal legislation, CARES Act funds are available only to students who are eligible for federal financial aid based on their completed FAFSA and can show financial need as a result of the pandemic. Only resident instruction students – not those enrolled in classes offered exclusively through CSU Online – can apply. (A complete FAQ document about CARES Act grants is available on the University’s COVID-19 information page.)

Although not all CSU students are eligible for this federal program, Donlay urged any students with questions or concerns to contact the Financial Aid office by email at

“Financial Aid has other assets available to assist students beyond this emergency program,” Donlay said. “We’re here to help students any way we can.”