Federal Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds used for emergency grants and to reduce or eliminate past-due student account balances incurred during the pandemic.  Additional federal funds slated to be distributed this spring.

AUGUSTA — Using Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF II and HEERF III) allocated under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARP)), the University of Maine at Augusta issued over $1.6 million in emergency grants to enrolled students, and awarded more than $900,000 in debt relief to students affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The federal funds were designated specifically to ease the financial burden on students enrolled since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.

In early October, UMA sent direct relief payments to 2,024 students ranging from $400-600 depending on the number of credits taken. A total of 954 students received additional emergency relief based on exceptional hardship as outlined in the HEERF regulations. Direct payments totaled more than $1.64 million.

In December UMA identified and provided relief to 717 students who were enrolled at UMA at any point during spring 2020 (as of March 13, 2020) through spring 2021. With a maximum benefit of $2,500, 544 students received complete debt forgiveness, while 173 received partial relief of their debt.

During the spring 2022 semester, an additional $1.7 million of federal relief payments will be distributed to students. The HEERF eligibility requirements are similar to the payments distributed in October. 

“The significance of the emergency grants and debt forgiveness cannot be understated,” said Jonathan Henry, UMA vice president of enrollment management and marketing. “The pandemic’s effect on employment and family obligations has placed a strain on the financial resources of our students. Many needed to choose between continuing their studies and supporting their families,” Henry continued. “The response has been overwhelming with several students planning to resume their studies this spring semester.” 

“I want to thank UMA for providing this debt relief to students,” stated UMA student Sarah Merriman of Old Orchard Beach. “This has allowed me to continue my studies sooner than I expected,” the mental health and human services major continued. “I enrolled for classes the same day I heard the news and look forward to finishing my degree.”

“The challenges of the pandemic remain,” stated UMA Interim President Joseph Szakas, “however, with the support of our faculty and staff, and the targeted federal relief, our students have managed to persevere and continue toward degree completion.”

In addition to the HEERF II and HEERF III funds, UMA previously distributed federal funds made available for students under the CARES Act (which included an original HEERF allocation).  A local UMA Student Emergency Relief Fund, established through the generosity of employees, alumni, and community partners was also utilized to assist students with food, housing, utilities, medications and other necessities due to the COVID-19 epidemic.