San Diego Community College District headquarters. Photo by Chris Stone

More than 1,300 San Diego Community College District students excluded from collecting coronavirus relief funds will receive $200 emergency grants from the United Way of San Diego County to help deal with financial hardships brought on by the pandemic, the district announced Wednesday.

The United Way allocated $267,000 to the community college district to provide some financial assistance for students who were not allowed to collect Coronavirus Aid, Relief & Economic Security Act funds by the U.S. Department of Education.

Students at Mesa College, the largest in the district, will share $96,120. City College’s allotment is $64,080, while Miramar College received $58,740 and San Diego Continuing Education got $48,060.

Funds are limited to SDCCD students who were initially ruled ineligible for emergency CARES Act grants distributed by colleges and universities.

About 24,000 SDCCD students were blocked from receiving those grants because of a federal directive limiting them to Title IV students — or those who qualified for federal financial aid. That effectively excluded DACA students, international students and all Continuing Education students, among others.

Following a lawsuit filed by the California Community College Chancellor’s Office and five local districts, including the SDCCD, the federal directive has since been placed on hold by a preliminary injunction issued by a U.S. District Court judge.

Some of the affected students have found relief through other CARES Act provisions, however. Students who did not qualify for other state or federal benefits can request an emergency $200 grant through the United Way- funded initiative.

“I commend United Way of San Diego County for supporting students who were excluded from the federal CARES Act funding,” said Chancellor Constance M. Carroll.

“The San Diego Community College District supports all students, including DACA and undocumented students who deserve the same opportunities as other students,” she said. “This grant makes a strong statement about inclusion and equity, while providing the laptops and electronic tools that students need today in order to continue their education in an online format.”

The United Way will distribute funds to the SDCCD later in July, and the district will distribute the $200 payments to eligible students in the following weeks.

“We are proud to partner with the San Diego Community College District to assist students who have been denied CARES Act Funding,” said United Way of San Diego County President and CEO Nancy Sasaki. “These emergency grants will help them cover basic necessities they urgently need, such as rent, mortgage, utility payments and food. As we have for 100 years, United Way of San Diego County will continue to address inequities and take action to aid the most vulnerable in our community.”

According to a district-conducted survey, 29% of students at City, 24% of students at Mesa and 18% percent of students at Miramar said they can’t pay rent, mortgage or utility bills. More than 5,490 SDCCD students to date have received CARES Act payments of up to $500 for qualified COVID-19 economic hardships.

–City News Service