Students at Rio Hondo College May Be Eligible for COVID-19 Related Financial Assistance

Over the last week, several students at Rio Hondo College received an email. The subject line read: “Student Balance write-off.” Students across Calif., including those within the 38th Congressional District, who received the notice are eligible for financial assistance through the COVID-19, Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF).

Rio Hondo College Receives $28 million in Emergency Relief Funds

Rio Hondo College received $28,887,516 million from Congresswoman Linda Sanchez. Congresswoman Sanchez is the Representative of the 38th California Congressional District. 

The 38th Congressional District includes cities served by Rio Hondo College. Cities such as Montebello, Pico Rivera, South El Monte, Santa Fe Springs, and Whittier, Calif..

In a press release by the College from July 12, Superintendent/President Teresa Dreyfuss affirmed, “‘This money will go a long way in assisting our students who have been impacted by the pandemic, giving them more opportunities to succeed while also providing additional safety and upgrades to the College campus.'” 

HEERF III passed under The American Rescue Plan (ARP). President Joseph R. Biden approved ARP on Mar. 11, 2021. Sanchez visited the Rio Hondo College campus over the summer. She visited on July 8, where she awarded the grant to the school.

Besides Rio Hondo College, other higher education schools in the District received a portion of the award to aid students impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the press release by Congresswoman Sanchez, seven other colleges and schools in the 38th Congressional District received proceeds from the grant. Including Biola University, NTMA Training Centers of Southern California, Presbyterian Theological Seminary in America, Cerritos College, and Whittier College.

How Can Rio Hondo College Students Benefit from HEERF?

The proposed emergency assistance came as a surprise for many. It arrived as a message through the school email in the first week of November. Many students raised concerns that it seemed too good to be true, but the emails were legitimate. 

Qualifying students have 30 days after receiving the email to make the decision. They can choose to “discharge” the balance they owe to Rio Hondo College. Or, instead, pay their outstanding balance on their own.

Nevertheless, the College has to spend at least half of the funds directly on students. Including on tuition assistance and other related forms of support such as food security and health care. According to Rio Hondo College, the rest of the money “will be used to purchase upgrades, including Wi-Fi hotspots, computer hardware and software, hand sanitizer, masks, gloves and safety shields for desks,”  College.

The funds that Rio Hondo College received are part of a larger ongoing federal financial assistance program for higher education students and facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The funds will make a significant difference for Rio Hondo College students who may need financial assistance.