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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.

More information about this Fund will be published by the University on 3 April and applications will open on 6 April. 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. The University says that the fund is intended to:

• assist students from disadvantaged financial backgrounds who do not have access to, and are unable to, afford the costs of a computer and/or high-speed internet to support technology-enabled learning.
• assist with emergency financial support for students who, as a result of COVID-19, have lost a secure source of income required to pay for rent, food and similar necessities, where government support does not cover these costs.
• assist Study Abroad and Exchange students with costs incurred, who were required to abandon their overseas study plans as a result of COVID-19, and where travel insurance does not cover genuine, reasonable costs.

Students will access the application process online and we expect this will be included in the details announced on 3 April.
All undergraduate and graduate coursework students are eligible to access this fund; however, the availability of access to government support payments may impact the amount that some students can receive.

UMSU has asked the University to clarify how this fund will work for students receiving government support payments as it appears that funding for equipment or internet access to all students. If you are struggling to meet ordinary costs of living AND you receive government support payments this might limit your potential to access these funds. Hopefully the University will make this clear when it releases new information on 6 April.

Graduate Researchers are not eligible to access the Emergency Support Fund.

The University has committed to provide more details about how it will support Graduate Researchers on 6 April.

UMSU is aware that places like ANU are already announcing measures to support Graduate Researchers and has suggested that these are a good model for the University to follow.

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.

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.

The University has not provided detail on this yet and we expect this to be announced on 6 April.

We do know that the University will require some supporting documentation. We are concerned that financial hardship is not something you can demonstrate through documents. If you don’t have enough money to buy food, then you should be able to access funds that support you without having to go through an onerous process.

UMSU has asked the University to ensure that requirements are supporting documentation are easy for students to comply with.
This is another serious gap in this process. Emergency funding needs to flow to students quickly so that immediate problems can be addressed.

Currently, the University says that a student has to spend money up-front and then the University will reimburse a student for these expenses each fortnight.

UMSU has a major concern that students who are experiencing financial hardship won’t be able to spend money in order to be reimbursed later. After all, that is the nature of financial hardship.

UMSU has asked the University to ensure that students who are struggling to meet the ordinary costs of living or are unable to purchase upgraded computer equipment can access funding quickly and in advance.

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 Grants 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.

UMSU has let the University know 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.

Until we have more information about how the Emergency Support Fund works we can’t provide you with specific advice about how to access this fund – please check back on this page for updates!

For other information about financial assistance and to answer other questions please read the questions and answers below.

Other Financial Support Information

Below is more information on financial support during this time that does not relate to the University’s Emergency Student Support Fund. It also includes our contact, please get in touch if you need help with your specific situation.

This is a question many of you are starting to ask. We are raising the severe financial stress many students are now experiencing with the University, and we will continue to press for more financial and practical help for students.

We know that there are many students who are ineligible to receive Australian government income support payments and we think the University needs to take urgent action to assist you as an immediate priority.
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.