The Associated Students of UC San Diego (ASUCSD) Senate approved a proposal to reallocate approximately $1 million of their funds to COVID-19 relief aid during their meeting on May 20.
Created and sponsored by the AS Executive Board, the bill intends to financially support students severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic by redistributing $1 million total from other departments within ASUCSD. The departments whose funds are being reallocated to the relief pool include $760,000 from AS Concerts and Events (ASCE) and $125,000 from Student Organization Programming.
“We wanted to repurpose our AS fees in a way that has the highest level of impact for students,” said AS President Eleanor Grudin and Financial Controller Ethan Christensen in a statement to The Triton. “We are distributing the funds in ways that support high-risk student populations who are lacking support from the federal and state government initiatives.”
The AS Executive Board will create four $250,000 initiatives for students experiencing financial crises: the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Grants, the Undocumented Student Relief Grants, the International Student Support Initiative, and the Student Mental Health Support Initiative. All these initiatives will be focused on providing relief to students during the ongoing pandemic by funding grants, scholarships, and other student services.
The COVID-19 Emergency Relief Grant will supplement the $800,000 that the UCSD Basic Needs team has already allocated to students this past quarter through the university’s COVID-19 Special Relief Fund.
Furthermore, the Undocumented Student Relief Grants will provide $500 grants to undocumented students, with additional funds going to scholarships to compensate those same students who cannot be paid for their labor. The International Student Support Initiative will provide relief for international students struggling with issues like housing and food insecurity or emergency travel.
Outside of these initiatives, many undocumented and international students are ineligible for other sources of funding, such as the federal CARES grant.
“Undocumented Student Services funding has been reduced due to roll-backs from the UC Office of the President. In this upcoming year, there is little to no funding included for Undocumented Student Services included in the University of California budget,” said Grudin and Christensen. “International students are also ineligible for many sources of funding that have become support systems for the in and out of state students.”
The Student Mental Health Support Initiative is the only relief fund that will not provide direct grants to students. Instead, it will be used to implement virtual mental health services and hire a staff member through Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) to help respond to a growing mental health crisis among students.
According to Grudin, the AS Executive Board formulated the bill by reaching out to various resource centers and organizations across campus to determine which student populations were most at-risk during the ongoing pandemic. The AS Executive Board created these initiatives with these vulnerable students in mind, then determined the amount of money that would be reallocated from other ASUCSD offices based on these departments’ budgets for Spring Quarter 2020.
“The AS Executive Team reached out to all AVP offices asking about their budgets and if they had excess money due to COVID-19 derailing their plans for events, programs, initiatives, etc. and asked if they were interested in contributing funds to the four executive initiatives,” said Grudin and Christensen. “Due to the large amount of dollars that had been budgeted for programs for the Spring, the ASCE and External Affairs Offices were able to contribute significantly more than other offices.”
All students will be eligible to apply for the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Grant by filling out a COVID-19 Basic Needs relief form. Undocumented students and international students can also apply for their respective grants, although according to Grudin, international students should check in with the ISPO due to certain complications that could prevent them from getting the aid.
“We have to consider things both from an equality perspective, like how are all the students on our campus being served, but also from an equity perspective,” said Grudin at the AS Senate meeting on May 20. “These proposals were put together with the intent of addressing the equity because at this point, while we obviously want to serve all the students, we want to make sure we are serving the students who absolutely need it.”
ASUCSD will be working in collaboration with Basic Needs, Undocumented Student Services, and the International Students and Programs Office (ISPO) to redistribute relief funds. According to Grudin and Christensen, logistics for the initiatives are still being determined.
Julianna Domingo is a Staff Writer for The Triton.