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Preserving the promise of the CARES Act

By and

This Friday marks the fourth week since President Donald Trump signed into law the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The act allocated nearly $14 billion to support postsecondary education students and institutions through an emergency relief fund. Stanford was set to receive $7,376,668; however, facing public pressure, the University has since rescinded its application to receive such funds. 

We applaud Stanford’s administration for refusing to accept the CARES Act funds. The money was intended for small businesses and educational institutions facing existential crises, not for the enrichment of multibillion-dollar endowments. Moreover, it is clear that this decision had wide-ranging impacts throughout the higher-education community: Following Stanford’s announcement, Harvard, Yale, Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania quickly followed suit despite some resisting such decisions prior to Stanford’s announcement. 

Despite the University’s bold steps, however, we must continue to hold Stanford accountable. In particular, we must ensure that Stanford’s most vulnerable students are still afforded the resources they would have been guaranteed under the CARES Act. Stanford must maintain its commitment to our community. 

At least half of the CARES money allocated to the University was to be awarded in the form of emergency stimulus grants to students demonstrating the greatest financial need. These grants can be used for food, travel expenses, healthcare and other necessities. Though Stanford has decided not to pursue funding from the federal government, there are still segments of the student population who absolutely need access to these kinds of emergency grants. The pandemic has led to economic disruption for everyone, but the most vulnerable are most in need of help.

Stanford owes it to these students to maintain its commitment to allocating half of the original promised grant. To its credit, the administration addressed this in its original Twitter announcement: “since half of these funds were to be directly applied to grants for students, we want to reassure our students that we remain fully committed to the financial aid that has been promised to them.” 

Although, this language is vague and does not explain how Stanford will honor its stated commitment. This is concerning to us because the University has already demonstrated its willingness to cut corners by failing to quickly commit to full pay for contracted workers. 

Thus, we call on Stanford’s administration to commit to funding emergency stimulus grants to financially distressed students and to release a detailed clarification of how it will provide the benefits previously covered under the CARES Act.  We ask that Stanford commit to fully funding the $3,688,334 in grants originally intended for the undergraduate student body. These funds should go directly toward students with the greatest demonstrated financial need. Unlike the original grant, undocumented students should be covered. Furthermore, we ask that students be included in the dissemination process of allocating these funds and that the administration proceed with transparency and communicate clearly. The crisis has drastically altered the lives of many — our students cannot wait. 

Stanford has been at the forefront of treatment and prevention since the outbreak of the virus, and it is one of the leading institutions invested in fighting the pandemic. Rejecting money from the CARES Act was another demonstration of Stanford’s leadership during this crisis. 

Now, Stanford must build on that progress and ensure the most vulnerable members of our student body have the resources they need to navigate this crisis. Transparency is key. In a world gripped with uncertainty, Stanford has the ability to show with absolute clarity that it stands with its students. 

If you’d like to join our efforts to ensure members of our community are financially secure during this crisis, sign here to become a co-sponsor of our Undergraduate Senate bill. 

Chaze Vinci ’23
Neelay Trivedi ’23 

Contact Chaze Vinci at cvinci ‘at’ and Neelay Trivedi at ntrivedi ‘at’

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