Students receive $2,000 pandemic relief payments


Daily file photo by Evan Robinson-Johnson

The Office of Financial Aid, 1801 Hinman Ave. Eligible students received $2,000 payments as part of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds.

Noraan Mohamed and Hannah Feuer

Northwestern began to distribute $2,000 payments to eligible students this week as part of its allocation of federal aid in response to economic hardships intensified by COVID-19. 

Undergraduate students receiving need-based financial aid, Ph.D. students and MFA students were eligible for the payment, which came from federal Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds. More than 7,500 students were eligible, according to a University news release.

Elizabeth, an NU senior who wished to be referred to by first name only, receives full financial aid and is financially independent from her parents. She’s found a new job since losing her restaurant job during the pandemic, but said she’s grateful for the extra support the $2,000 payment provides. 

“They were really generous with making it $2,000,” Elizabeth said. “They easily could have said, ‘Oh, here’s 500 bucks,’ and it would have been insignificant, but I think they gave us a substantial amount of money.”

Students experienced shared difficulties finding jobs during the pandemic. Weinberg freshman Omar Villa said his mom, a single mother of two kids, worked fewer hours as the pandemic persisted, resulting in less income coming in. 

Villa is on a QuestBridge scholarship, so he attends NU for free. Because of his scholarship, Villa said the $2,000 is an added safety net, not a necessity. He said he plans on using some of the money to buy a winter coat. 

“This money means I have a safety cushion to fall back on just in case anything goes bad in the next year (or) months,” Villa said. 

Weinberg freshman Sylvia Sanchez said she and her twin sister always had to work in order to provide a liveable income for their family. Once the pandemic hit, they were both unable to find jobs and had to rely on their mom’s public school teacher income alone, which Sanchez said wasn’t nearly enough.

“I just couldn’t get a job and was really worried about saving for college,” Sanchez said. “I didn’t know what the (financial) situation would be (at Northwestern).”

Sanchez said she’ll use the money for small essentials she’s been missing, like an umbrella. 

But she didn’t feel entirely supported by the University. Sanchez said she was frustrated to find out about the payments through Twitter rather than NU itself. Before she received an email from the University, she said she had to look up who was eligible for the payments on her own.

She added that NU waited too long to provide aid to struggling students. 

“I wish they would have been more receptive to students’ needs and what was going on while the pandemic was happening,” Sanchez said. “I’m sure there are many, many students who could have needed this money while they were losing their jobs and everything was collapsing around them.”

Email: [email protected]

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @hannah_feuer 

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