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April 16, 2020
When Brianna* learned she would be taking an unexpected hiatus from her job because of the COVID-19 quarantine, her heart sank. She worried about how she would be able to continue traveling to her aging parents’ home to help with daily basic needs such as meal prep, hygiene and transportation to doctor appointments. She also worried how she would make her next rent payment due on the first of the month. When she heard that the Piedmont Technical College (PTC) Foundation had created the Supporting Our Students (SOS) Fund for students experiencing hardship during the crisis, she went online and completed an application.
“The help from this fund allowed me peace of mind when I was out of options,” Brianna said after her application was approved. “My own supply of household basic food staples was running low, as well as the feed for my animals. I have been doing this balancing act from the time I started at Piedmont Tech.”
The pandemic delivered a perfect storm of anxiety for Brianna. She had difficulty concentrating on her studies as bills stacked up and she considered the possibility that, without a paycheck, she could lose her home.
“Late payments and interest keep escalating on these bills, and I worry about it constantly,” she wrote in her aid application. Vowing to find a way to pay it forward, she added: “If I can get through school and start earning a salary while helping others, it will be one of the greatest blessings for me. Thank you for the continued support. I am filled with gratitude and hope I will be able to serve this community well in the future.”
Since the PTC Foundation established the SOS Fund last month, nearly 90 students have applied and 46 already have received assistance. To date, the fund has disbursed more than $16,000 in sums up to $500 each for qualifying students.
“We just want to make sure our students are taken care of today,” PTC Associate Dean of Students David Rosenbaum explained. “We are grateful that our Foundation can support an initiative like this one.”
The SOS Fund pays directly into students’ utility, car financing or mortgage accounts, or pays rent to landlords on behalf of the student. Those needing grocery money have been issued gift cards.
Similarly, the PTC Student Support Services program has helped an additional eight students with $5,650 in assistance from a grant.
“The disbursements so far have been pretty evenly split among car payments, rent or mortgage payments, utility payments, and groceries,” said Fran Wiley, associate vice president for development at the PTC Foundation. “We’ve also been gratified by the outpouring of support during these uncertain times. Several people have inquired about how they might contribute to the SOS Fund. It is truly heartwarming.”
Now the federal government is providing additional relief for students like Brianna who have been impacted by the crisis through its Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), which will issue direct payments to Spring semester PTC credit students within the next several days.
“Students who already have direct deposit set up should see the funds in the next few days,” said Josh Black, PTC vice president for student affairs and communication. “We are immensely proud of the way our students have handled this disruption. We also know some of them are struggling financially due to the circumstances, so we’re attempting to get these funds to them as quickly as possible.”
*To protect the student’s privacy, we’re not using her real name.
Photo is stock image.