ASUCR Office of External Affairs urges Congress to pass Supporting Students in Response to Coronavirus Act

The ASUCR Office of External Affairs is encouraging students to email their congressional representatives to pass a federal COVID-19 student relief stimulus package for students being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A link to the email format and text was posted on their Instagram account. The email states that the student is emailing their congressional representative to urge the “Congress-member to take a position of support for the recently introduced H.R. 6275 – Supporting Students in Response to Coronavirus Act.”

The email states that as the UCR campus has made a rapid transition to remote learning without precedent, thousands of students have been left unable to complete their coursework adequately, struggling under critical circumstances that includes student workers facing reduced hours or unemployment, student parents left without accessible childcare, students without access to secure housing or technology during this transition and several more students who are facing exacerbating issues with affording their basic needs. The email also states that H.R. 6275 would provide $1.2 billion in relief to colleges and universities to aid students in accessing technology to complete their coursework, much needed aid to student parents, financial flexibility like exempting the current term from counting for Pell Grant and student loan eligibility and more to support communities that have been the most impacted by COVID-19. 

“With a campus like UC Riverside, where over 50% of students rely on the Pell Grant to graduate, and over 6 in 10 students experience food insecurity, it is vital that this aid package be incorporated in pending discussion surrounding the COVID-19 stimulus package so that we can survive and recover from this disaster,” states the email. 

In an interview with The Highlander, Vice President of External Affairs Luis Huerta stated that the Office of the Vice President of External Affairs worked to advocate for the student relief package that was included in the federal stimulus bill in order to secure funding for universities and students. The federal stimulus package that was signed by President Donald Trump this month, includes roughly $14 billion for higher education in order to alleviate any financial losses universities have endured, stated Huerta.

Huerta stated that The Office of External Affairs hoped the stimulus package included more funding to help with financial aid and basic needs relief, however, the higher education component of the bill received far less than hoped. The approved package includes money for financial aid and also a halt for student loan payments, stated Huerta. 

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While working remotely, the Office of External Affairs is prioritizing student relief at UCRand planning to allocate office funds to basic needs initiatives in conjunction with other officials within ASUCR, stated Huerta. He stated that it will be difficult to coordinate relief efforts without campus access but the Office of External Affairs hopes to come up with creative ways to carry out efforts. The office alongside other student leaders sent an email blast to elected officials to boost the sense of urgency regarding the stimulus bill, Huerta stated.

“The stimulus bill that congress passed, although not all we wished for, is important because it helps provide the necessary funding universities across the country need and also places a hold on student loan payments,” stated Huerta.

The Office of External Affairs, according to Huerta, foresees students at UCR benefiting directly from the stimulus package because many may receive either the $1,200 or $500 check to supplement time off work. “The main benefit that students will see is an increased pool of financial aid, however, it is up to the discretion of the university to decide how to distribute these funds,” stated Huerta. 

More information about the H.R.6275 can be found at congress.gov. 

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