Student Government held their last meetings for the semester on Friday, April 10. Emergency Budget and Allocations Committee and Senate meetings were held in order to address SG contributing funds to the UNF Student Emergency Relief Fund.
Originally, Student Body President Ally Schneider presented to the B&A Committee requesting $230,000 be transferred to the emergency fund to help aid students facing financial insecurity during the COVID-19 crisis.
This amount, which adds to the $20,000 being contributed from the Executive Branch Index, was requested by Provost Rhodes, Dr. Dan Moon, and Everett Malcolm.
“We’re hearing a lot of reports of sudden unemployment, financial insecurity, those types of things. We asked them what number they thought would be appropriate and they requested an amount of $250,000 total,” Schneider told the committee. “We thought that was appropriate because the purpose of the A&S Fee is to benefit the student body in general, and therefore it’s appropriate for Student Government to provide some funds for crisis aid because it is benefiting the student body.”
The UNF Student Emergency Relief Fund, which is controlled by Academic and Student Affairs, was not created specifically for the COVID-19 crisis. Instead, it’s an emergency fund available to students year-round, and typically aids around 8 to 12 students per year. During the struggle with Coronavirus, however, the fund is being promoted by the university for students who face sudden financial insecurity related to the pandemic.
The maximum amount of aid is likely to be set at $500 per student, according to Schneider. This means that SG’s contribution would fund around 500 students.
Currently, the fund is at about $13,000, and so far, only 20 students have applied for COVID-19 related aid.
Along with the request for funds, Schneider also presented a Memorandum of Understanding that would ensure the funds are used appropriately. This document will be signed by Schneider and Provost Rhodes.
“In a situation like this, a non-SG entity is essentially now becoming the steward of A&S money, and so we still have a duty to protect it and make sure it’s being used in the way we’ve agreed for it to be used,” Schneider explained. Student Government has used MOU’s in the past to protect A&S Fee funds with Spinnaker, as well as with Student Affairs regarding the SLS Fee.
The MOU stipulates that any committee that is tasked with deciding who receives aid from the emergency fund must include a representative from Student Government, and that the A&S Fee money has to be used in situations directly related to the COVID-19 crisis.
“The A&S Fee doesn’t usually fund this relief fund and so I thought that it was important to specify that it’s being used for this crisis specifically, not just to generally fund this relief fund,” Schneider explained.
Further, any A&S Fee money that has not been used by the emergency relief by December 31, 2020 must be returned to SG. If any of the requirements are breached, the A&S Fee money will be returned to SG upon request.
“That’s just to add an extra layer of protection to make sure that if the A&S Fee is missuesd somehow, we have some recourse for getting it back to us,” Schneider elaborated.
Other university departments have also been asked to contribute to the fund. “We were told that other departments have been told to look within their budget to find things they can move around and cut potentially to contribute to student relief but we weren’t told any specific departments or specific amounts,” Schneider said.
After hearing Schneider’s presentation, the B&A Committee had concerns about the amount of money being contributed, due to the lack of applications so far. Senator Camden Dean moved to reduce the amount of money contributed from the General Reserves to $50,000, which passed 4-0-2.
“I think it would be better to start with a smaller amount and then if there’s more need then we can pass another request, if the Senate and the Committee still deem that appropriate,” Dean explained of his motion.
“We can always go back and do another Special Request to add more funds but it’s going to be more difficult to pull funds back out of it if we find out that only 75 students applied for it, and we now have $175,000 sitting in this fund that we can’t use,” Schneider contributed.
The legislation was then further amended to come from the Special Request Index instead of General Reserves, which streamlines the funding allocation process by not requiring SG to go to the Auxiliary Oversight Committee.
Senate approved the bill 22-0-0. A total of $70,000 will be contributed to the fund from Student Government at this time, with $50,000 coming from the legislation approved today and $20,000 coming from the Executive Branch. For students in need of aid, the application is available on the Dean of Students website.
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