Beyond the CARES Act

Graphic by Quinn Sherer | Mercury Staff


The successor to the CARES Act – the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act – is available this semester for students financially impacted by COVID-19.

Senior Director of Financial Aid Beth Tolan said that the CRRSA Act was enacted on Dec. 27,2020, as a federally funded need-based emergency award fund. Unlike the CARES Act, it does not require the COVID-19 impact to be related to campus disruptions. CRRSA awards will be determined by available funding, the number of eligible applications submitted and the Expected Family Contribution of a student’s 2020/2021 FAFSA.

To be eligible for the aid, students – both undergraduate and graduate – must be enrolled this semester in a degree-seeking program, have a valid 2020/2021 FAFSA on file with UTD and submit a completed CRRSA application. The CRRSA application is located on the CRRSA website and can only be submitted once per student. The Financial Aid Office may request additional documentation after an application is submitted if a student’s FAFSA is incomplete.

According to the CRRSA website, the application takes around five minutes to complete and consists of three questions focusing on eligibility, financial needs and preferred payment method. Supplemental documents such as tax returns, bank statements and leases that would be required on a city emergency-funded application are not required for UTD’s CRRSA application.

“Students have an option to request funds awarded to be refunded directly to them – i.e., despite any outstanding charges – or to apply toward outstanding educational charges,” Tolan said. “(However) we cannot apply funding toward the food cards.”

Students can expect to hear back about their award decision via email within a week of submitting their completed application.

“Refunds will process within five business days,” Tolan said. “However, a refund may generate as quickly as the same day as the award disbursement depending on (a) student’s refund profile.”

The CRRSA website says that students who choose for funds to be directed toward their outstanding educational charges will have any remaining money refunded to them through the method of payment listed on their Bursar account. All awards – regardless of how they are received – will be distributed by the Financial Aid Office.

When it comes to appealing an award decision, Tolan said that the Financial Aid Office is not accepting appeals. However, students may request reconsideration of their 2020/2021 FAFSA if they believe their or their family’s economic situation is incorrectly stated. To request this, a student would need to submit a Special Circumstance Appeal, including a letter explaining the circumstances the student wants to be reconsidered and supporting documents.

“If your Special Circumstance Appeal is approved, you may request a reconsideration of your CRRSA Act emergency aid application based on your updated 2020/2021 FAFSA via email to,” Tolan said.

Tolan said that students unable to apply for CRRSA include international students, TAFSA applicants and DACA students. Instead, these students can apply for institutional aid via the Dean of Students and UTD’s central scholarship listing for emergency aid, both of which – like CRRSA – don’t have to be paid back.

“Students who have or have not qualified for emergency aid and are in need of funds should contact the Office of Financial Aid so that we can advise on an individual basis,” Tolan said.

Tolan said that the CRRSA application deadline hasn’t been finalized, but all eligible students are encouraged to apply now.

 “Students in need of emergency funds who meet the criteria and have not yet applied should do so as soon as possible,” Tolan said.