It was not a long process to create the fund, according to Routh.
“The chancellor said, ‘Do it, this is our very top priority,’ and it all happened very quickly," he said.
The fund won’t be limited to students who receive financial aid for tuition or other expenses at UNC, Routh said. Any student applicant with emergency needs will be considered.
The fund considers needs including limited broadband internet access, travel, housing, food, food delivery fees and laundry detergent, in addition to an "other" category, Rachelle Feldman, associate provost and director of the Office of Scholarships and Student Aid, said.
“When we get things we haven’t thought of, we meet as a group and decide how related to the virus the expense seems, whether it feels reasonable — and in almost every case they do,” she said.
Routh’s office has led the effort in securing donations to the fund, which are then distributed by Feldman’s office.
Feldman said their first priority was aiding study abroad students whose programs were shortened or cancelled and providing housing and travel funds for these students.
“Mostly we’re trying to give the funding through your regular student account so it will go direct deposit and (you will) get it wherever you are,” Feldman said. “There have been a couple times where we fronted the money and just bought a plane ticket because that student was abroad and that was easier.”
Feldman said one of the first things she did was work to ensure that work-study students were able to receive pay despite campus closures.
Luca Maini, an assistant professor in the economics department who focuses on industrial organization and health economics, said the spread of COVID-19 and the subsequent shutdowns will likely hurt many hourly workers and small business owners across the U.S.
"This is the kind of shock that is temporary in nature by definition,” Maini said. “It will definitely have long-term effects, although it will eventually go back to normal. I think what we want to worry about right now is how long that is going to take.”
Feldman said she recognizes that the rapid change caused by the spread of the virus has likely been difficult for students.
“I know it’s very stressful on everyone, on the students, on the professors who’re trying to figure out how to teach, having your year disrupted, and we just want to be as supportive as we can and encourage anyone who’s a student — undergraduate, graduate, professional — if they’re feeling like they have financial needs because of the virus to please go ahead and apply to the fund and then we can have a conversation about it,” Feldman said.
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