Student Emergency Grants

As of June 12, 2020 all of the awarding phases for the federal CARES act have closed. Sonoma State was able to award $4,546,724 to 3,346 students and provide them with assistance for their expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Background

Sonoma State signed and returned to the Department of Education the certification and agreement that we have applied for and received $9,093,448 million from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) act. These funds will be used to assist with the financial impact of the pandemic on the University and its students.  Half of the institution’s allocation, $4,546,724, will go directly to students in the form of emergency financial aid grants to help with expenses related to COVID-19 including increased costs for housing, food, course materials, technology, health care and childcare. The remainder of the funding will mitigate expected costs associated with transitioning to online instruction and teleworking, as well as loss of revenue associated with housing, meal plans, canceled performances and parking among others.

Funding Methodology

Following guidance from the U.S. Department of Education and CSU Chancellor’s Office, Sonoma State established three operational principles to guide the distribution of these grants:

  • Student success
    To help alleviate financial distress students are experiencing due to COVID-19.
  • Equity
    All students have experienced some type of impact due to COVID-19, but those impacts have been uneven, with greater negative impacts on students from historically underserved communities. Students should receive different levels of grant aid proportional to their financial circumstances.
  • Timeliness and administrative simplicity
    Ensure access for the greatest number of eligible students possible to receive emergency aid as needed, with minimal administrative processes.

With these principles as our guide, we developed a process to allocate the CARES Act to students as quickly as possible, prioritizing students with the greatest financial need.

CARES Act Funds Eligibility

Sonoma State undergraduate, graduate, and professional students who were enrolled in Spring 2020 as of May 15 and are U.S. citizens or eligible non-citizens can apply. CARES is now closed but there were 4,834 students who were eligible to apply.

International students and undocumented students, including California Dream Act and DACA students are not eligible for federal financial aid programs, including the CARES Act. Please visit the CSU CARES webpage for more information on grant opportunities for international students and undocumented students.

Phase 1: Automatic Grants - Closed

Those students with the greatest financial need as determined by federal financial aid standards and qualify for a federal Pell award will receive automatic grants ranging from $125 to $1,900. The grant amount is based upon each student’s expected family contribution and the number of units the student is currently enrolled in. Please see the table below for award amounts.

Phase 1 Automatic Grant Amounts, Based on Family Contribution and Enrollment
Expected Family Contribution Current Number of Enrolled Units
  12 or more 9-11 6-8 1-5
0 $1,900 $1,425 $950 $475
1 - 2,000 $1,300 $975 $650 $325
2,001 - 4,000 $1,000 $750 $500 $250
4,001 - 5,576 $500 $375 $250 $125


This is intended to provide immediate, meaningful assistance to students who already had a significant documented financial need and whose needs have grown during the ongoing COVID-19 situation.

Students who receive Phase 1 grants will be notified through their University email accounts. No additional action is required.

The automatic grants will distribute the vast majority of the CARES act emergency funding for students, leaving a balance for additional emergency grants to students who are eligible and complete a simple application.

Phase 2: Application for Grants - Closed

We have approximately 8,100 students who are eligible to receive a grant through the CARES Act. Through Phase 1 of the awarding process, we have awarded $3,853,025 to 2,705 students. Those students who did not qualify for the Phase 1 automatic CARES grant can still apply to receive help through this program. If you have not already done so, you will need to complete a 2019-2020 FAFSA through FAFSA.gov in order to be considered.

Expenses to be considered for CARES Grant eligibility are those expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Allowable expense items are food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and/or child-care.

Please note that these funds are limited and they will be awarded on a first come first serve basis until funds have been exhausted.

The application period opens on May 8 and runs through May 15. The application can be accessed through your MySSU Student Center page. The awarding of Phase 2 grants will be based on an assessment of student expenses associated with the disruption of campus operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the limited amount of funding, the maximum grant award for applicants is $250. Students submitting applications should only ask for funding to cover expenses caused by this disruption.

Phase 3: Automatic Grants - Closed

Post baccalaureate students who have an expected family contribution of less than $5,576, are not eligible for federal Pell grants, and did not receive an automatic award in Phase 1 will receive an automatic CARES Act grant ranging from $125 to $1,900. 

Students who have become Pell eligible for 2019-2020 after the Phase 1 automatics grants were paid out will also receive automatic grants in Phase 3.

The grant amount is based upon each student’s expected family contribution and the number of units the student is currently enrolled in. Please see the table below for award amounts.

Phase 3 Automatic Grant Amounts, Based on Family Contribution and Enrollment
Expected Family Contribution Current Number of Enrolled Units
  12 or more 9-11 6-8 1-5
0 $1,900 $1,425 $950 $475
1 - 2,000 $1,300 $975 $650 $325
2,001 - 4,000 $1,000 $750 $500 $250
4,001 - 5,576 $500 $375 $250 $125


This is intended to provide immediate, meaningful assistance to students who already had a significant documented financial need and whose needs have grown during the ongoing COVID-19 situation.

Students who receive Phase 3 grants will be notified through their University email accounts. No additional action is required.

Phase 4: Application for Grants - Closed

We have remaining funds available to award qualified students. Through Phase 1 of the awarding process, we have awarded $3,853,025 to 2,705 students. In Phase 2, we awarded $112,250 to another 449 students.  We are opening another application period for grants to all students who qualify (see CARES Act Funds Eligibility above), including those students that have already received a grant in Phase 1, Phase 2, or Phase 3. 

Expenses to be considered for CARES grant eligibility are those expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Allowable expense items are food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and/or child-care.

Please note that these funds are limited and they will be awarded on a first come first serve basis until funds have been exhausted.

The application period opens on Friday, May 29 at 8 a.m. and runs through Friday, June 5 at 5 p.m. The application can be accessed through your MySSU Student Center page. If you do not see the CARES Act application link, please clear your browser cache, close the browser, and then log in again. If problems persist, try with a different browser or using incognito mode. 

The awarding of Phase 4 grants will be based on an assessment of student expenses associated with the disruption of campus operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the limited amount of funding, the maximum grant award for applicants is $500. Students submitting applications should only ask for funding to cover expenses caused by this disruption and that are allowable expenses, including food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and/or child-care.

Accessing Your Grant Money

All grants will be sent to your bank via direct deposit if you have enrolled through your MySSU student account. Please verify your bank account information is correct in your MySSU student account.

If you have not enrolled in direct deposit through MySSU, a check will be mailed to your mailing address. Be sure to verify your mailing address is correct in your MySSU student account.

Given the high-profile nature of this funding, be alert for phishing attacks. Remember, Sonoma State will never ask you to email/text your password or ask you to verify your banking information via email.

Need Help?

Financial Aid and Scholarship Office
For questions related to financial aid and FAFSA 
707-664-2389 (M–F, 10 a.m.– 2 p.m.) 
finaid@sonoma.edu.

Seawolf Service Center
For questions related to direct deposit and mailing of checks
707-664-2308 (M–F, 10 a.m.–2 p.m.)
seawolf.servicecenter@sonoma.edu.

Basic Needs Intervention Program
The Basic Needs Intervention Program is a comprehensive effort through the Division of Student Affairs that identifies and immediately serves some of SSU's most at-risk students. 

Loan Relief and Debt Protection

Governor's Executive Order: On April 23, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that most private student loan servicers have agreed to provide payment and other relief to borrowers, including more than 1.1 million Californians with privately held student loans. He also signed an executive order to stop debt collectors from garnishing COVID-19-related financial assistance.