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Emergency Student Support Fund Information

On 30 March the University announced a new Emergency Student Support Fund for students experiencing financial hardship as a result of Covid-19.

Applications for this are now open, and students will be able to access this fund until 31 August.

Eligible students will be able to access a grant of up to $7 500. There are three categories of funding available

IT Upgrade and Study Support
  • You will be able to request support to contribute towards the costs of IT hardware (mainly laptops), internet access (data plans) and office furniture required for remote study. Students who do not have access to all or some of these items are eligible to apply. The fund cannot be accessed to upgrade or replace existing items.
  • You will need to provide evidence of purchase or, in cases where the funds are required to make the purchase, upload a statutory declaration stating what you are purchasing with evidence of purchase provided at a later stage.
  • Payments will be based on a pre-determined average purchase cost of a laptop/computer and monitor, internet access (limited period) and a desk or an office chair. Indicative amounts to be allocated are listed below:
    • up to $1,000 for a laptop/computer
    • up to $250 for internet upgrades
    • up to $150 for a desk and $75 for an office chair
    • Payments will be made on the first available fortnightly regular University payment day (after you have provided your bank details to the University).
Loss of Income
  • you will be able to request assistance to help you meet the minimum cost of living for the duration of the semester where you have lost a secure source of income due to COVID-19. This could include paid work, family or other sources.
  • Originally the University advised that payments will be based on an agreed amount per week, potentially until the end of Semester 1, 2020 for students who have lost their regular income. The payments were orginially to be in the form of a stipend paid fortnightly. Including a back payment.
  • However it appears that this may have changed - the University has not notified UMSU of how or why but we are asking for urgent clarification.
  • The University will undertake a revaluation in late May 2020, at which point if income is now being received, including any Centrelink benefits not previously received, Emergency Support Fund payments may cease.
  • An extension beyond 3 July 2020 will also be considered depending upon your circumstances.
Cancelled overseas study
  • You will be able to request assistance towards covering some of the additional costs not covered by travel insurance, if you were on, or about to commence, an approved study overseas activity for Semester 1, 2020, but had to abandon your overseas study plans as a result of COVID-19. The amount awarded will be determined by the gap between the reasonable cost claimed and the settled amount by insurance, less any University or other grant support already provided. Payments will be based on an agreed amount as a contribution towards additional costs not covered by insurance.
We strongly suggest that you review your eligibility for each of these categories of funding before engaging in any up-front expenditure. Even if you are eligible to receive this funding you may end up with some out of pocket expenses.
On its Emergency Support Fund webpage the University has provided detailed information about the eligibility for each of the three different categories of funding. A student who is eligible for one category of funding may not necessarily be available for all three categories. The eligibility criteria are complex so it is important to review these carefully to ensure you understand which funds you can access.
Graduate Researchers are eligible to access the Emergency Support Fund in certain circumstances.

You should review the eligibility criteria carefully to determine whether you can access this financial support.

Graduate Researchers should be aware that some of the updates to eligibility for the Emergency Support Fund are yet to flow through to other information provided by the University.
Students can submit an application online here.
UMSU has raised significant concerns about how this fund works for International students.

While International students can access these funds – which is good – if social isolation measures extend for a significant period of time UMSU does not believe that the amount available will be enough to prevent financial hardship.

For example, if financial hardship continues until August 31 an International student would be eligible to receive about $750 each fortnight which is significantly lower than the amount a local student who is eligible for government support payments would receive.

The University has indicated that they will review this situation if social distancing measures continue beyond August 31.

However, the University has not responded to UMSU’s request to increase financial support to students who are ineligible to receive government support payments.

UMSU believes that equivalent levels of financial support should be available to all students who require it.

UMSU believes that International students will experience the same struggles to meet the ordinary costs of living and should be eligible to receive financial support that is equivalent to the amount received by other students.

For International students who received funds from the University’s Covid-19 Student Support Grants (to address the impact of travel bans) there is important information that you should read below.
Depending on the category of funding you are seeking you may be required to provide different forms of supporting documentation as part of your application.

This includes things like:
  • Receipts or invoices
  • Statutory declarations
  • Photographs
  • A statement (this has a 500-word limit!) detailing the nature of your financial hardship and its impact on you.
Funding will be administered in two main ways:
  1. Where students have already engaged in expenditure this can be reimbursed as long as there is supporting documentation
  2. Once financial hardship has been established the University will administer a single payment to you to assist meeting the costs of living expenses like food and rent from April to July
This is another major issue that UMSU has raised with the University.

If you have accessed funds provided by the University under its Covid-19 Student Support Grant Scheme then this is important information.

The Student Support Grants were for up $7 500 to compensate for costs associated with the impact of the Federal Government’s travel bans announced from February 1. For any student who has already received funds from this grant scheme the amount you can receive from the Emergency Support Fund will be reduced by that amount.

For example, if you received $3 500 for costs associated with the impact of the travel ban you will only be able to receive $4 000 from the Emergency Support Fund.

The University has advised UMSU that students who have reached the combined cap across both grants may be eligible to receive additional financial support and will need to apply to the University for this. While this is a slight improvement on what was originally announced we think the combined cap needs to be removed altogether.

UMSU believes that this will unfairly impact international student and could exacerbate financial hardship – just because you have received the travel ban grant does not mean that you won’t experience significant financial hardship between now and August.

These two schemes were established to address different needs so access to the Emergency Support Fund should not be limited.
UMSU will continue to raise issues with the University so we need you to continue to provide us your feedback about this and any other issues associated with the University’s response to Covid-19.

For other information about financial assistance and to answer other questions please explore UMSU’s Covid-19 Financial Support pages.
If you are unhappy with the outcome, the first step is to contact the Scholarships team via ask.unimelb here and request full reasons for the outcome you have been given. The UMSU Advocacy Service can provide you with a template for addressing the review, and feedback on your draft before you submit it. If you are unsuccessful at the review stage, you may be able to dispute the outcome via a formal grievance. Contact Advocacy here.

Other Financial Support Information

On 29 April, the Victorian Government announced a $45 million fund to support international students in Victoria facing hardship as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. While we don’t know exactly what the Premier’s plan is, and as it’s not something the University is administering we aren’t able to advise on the specific details, however we would encourage all international students to apply for this. You can register your interest here, that way you can be alerted when applications do open.

Below is more information on financial support during this time that does not relate to the University’s Emergency Student Support Fund.

On 18 May, the City of Melbourne announced ‘Our Shout’; a food relief program for international students facing financial hardship. This relief program offers eligible international students $200 in food vouchers to use at the Queen Victoria Market, to purchase groceries and essential items. Applications close Friday 22 May.
Find out more and apply: https://bit.ly/ourshoutprogram
Yes - the University has just announced a COVID Emergency Support Fund which is available to all students. There are details here: https://students.unimelb.edu.au/student-support/coronavirus/financial-support/emergency-support and you can apply from Monday 6 April 2020. However, while some of UMSU’s concerns about the financial impact of COVID-19 on students have been addressed over the last few days, UMSU remains concerned about the level of financial support that will be available for international students, especially given they are not eligible for Government financial support which is available to eligible domestic students. We will continue to pressure the university to make changes to this scheme
As a result of lobbying, the Government has extended eligibility for the $750 one off Economic Support Payment to domestic students who receive Austudy, Abstudy or Youth Allowance. Unfortunately, there is no Australian government support for international students at this point. We are raising the issue of serious financial hardship with the University and will keep you informed.
We are aware that some students in certain subjects may need equipment they don’t currently have to participate fully. If this is you – please let us know. We have alerted the University to your concerns, and we will let you know when the situation is addressed. The University has said that they are aware of this issue and are looking at ways to ensure students have access to essential equipment. We are aware that some other universities are offering financial assistance programs – such as La Trobe which has established a technology bursary, $3000 crisis support scholarships, and emergency relief to pay for essentials.
The State government has announced it will be operating an emergency relief program for people in mandatory self-isolation who have little or no food or support.

As part of the program, each eligible household will receive a two-week supply of essential goods. Food packages will include items such as long-life milk, pasta, cereal, canned vegetables and sugar. Personal care packages will also be distributed to eligible households and include soap, toothpaste and deodorant. Additional items may also be provided depending on the needs of the household, such as nappies or baby formula.

The emergency relief program can be accessed by calling Victoria’s dedicated coronavirus hotline on 1800 675 398. The hotline can also refer people to other support services if needed.
If you still have Myki Pass on your card and you can’t use it now that you’re not attending classes, below are some steps in obtaining refund from the Public Transport Victoria (PTV):

Step 1: You must be a current Myki Pass holder.

Step 2: Ring PTV Customer Service 1800 800 007 (6am-midnight, 7 days a week) and tell them you want a refund/to transfer Myki Pass into Money. They will give you instructions.

OR

Go to the link

Step 3: For those going online, choose whether to get a refund or to transfer Myki Pass into Money, type in your details and review and submit.

Step 4: Print your Reference Number

Step 5: Place your Reference Number and Myki Card inside an envelope and send it to the following address via post: Myki Mailbox, Reply Paid 4318, Melbourne, Victoria 8060

Step 6: Wait for your new Myki card that will arrive within a few weeks with the refund.
The UMSU Legal Service has a free financial counselling service for students who are struggling with debts, or who want more control over their financial situation. A financial counsellor can provide advice on issues including:
  • Managing rent and accommodation expenses
  • Utility bills – gas, electricity, water
  • Phone and internet debts
  • Credit and store cards
  • Credit reports
  • Personal & car loans
  • Motor vehicle accident debts
    To access the financial counselling service, please complete our online contact form here.
This process can now be completed online. The steps are set out here.
The Victorian government have announced a relief payment of up to $1,100 for International Students. More information about this can be found here.