California relief grant worth $2,500 could expire soon

In summary

Workers who lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic and are enrolling in a college program have until June 15 to apply for a California relief grant to receive up to $2,500 as state lawmakers seek to cut programs to plug a hole. in the budget.

Workers who lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic and are enrolling in a college class be warned: Your chance to get up to $2,500 likely ends June 15.

The Golden State Education and Training Grant Program was created in 2021 to help workers laid off due to the economic fallout from COVID. But now the college scholarship program is slated to be cut due to California’s current fiscal malaise.

Looking for ways to plug the state’s estimated $31.5 billion budget hole, Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed in May to completely screw up the relief grant program in the 2023-24 budget year, which begins July 1. That would return an estimated $480 million to the state: nearly all of the $500 million lawmakers and Newsom allocated for the program.

And while the Legislature hasn’t officially formulated its budget response to Newsom, which is due June 15, the Assembly budget committee and a key Senate subcommittee approved Newsom’s plan to cancel the program. Some 6,000 people have used the program so far; the Legislative Analyst’s Office, a nonpartisan adviser to the Legislature, suggested getting rid of it by the end of the year.

Officials with the agency that oversees the relief grant said people who currently qualify for the aid can still apply, but the timeline is tight.

Eligible workers must apply for the grant by June 15, Shelveen Ratnam, a spokeswoman for the California Student Aid Commission, said in an email Tuesday afternoon. If workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic are not currently in a university program, they must be enrolled by June 30 to take advantage of the grant, Ratnam added.

The aggressive schedule also applies to universities: They, too, must verify a student’s enrollment by June 30.

After June 30, the commission will “disburse awards to recipients who have met all eligibility criteria,” Ratnam wrote.

Unlike typical financial aid applications, applying for your aid grant takes less than 20 minutes. But workers looking for the money must meet several requirements, including that:

  • they lost their jobs “because” of the pandemic;
  • were not enrolled in a higher education program when they were laid off;
  • currently earn less than $42,800 a year as single wage earners with no children or more if their families are larger;
  • earn less than they did before the pandemic;
  • are enrolled in a community college, California State University, or University of California academic program, in addition to certain other eligible training institutions.

The grant program launched with much fanfare with plans to reach 190,000 people, but so far few people have received help. In early May, the student aid commission awarded scholarships to approximately 3,500 students in 2022-23 and 2,600 through a pilot program in 2021-22. That amounted to $24 million in grants.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office wrote in February that the relief grant was basically a fix in search of a problem. While many of the employees laid off during the pandemic were working in service and recreation related jobs and lacked a college degree, this program came too late.

Now, “because the labor market has been very favorable to job seekers, displaced workers are more likely to have the option of finding other jobs rather than going back to school.”

Also, California students can enroll in a community college for free if their income is low enough, the target group for this grant, the analyst’s office wrote. State and federal financial aid may also lead to more education dollars for workers going back to school, the analyst report added. Still, those grants are only available for four or six years, and some workers may have exhausted their financial aid benefits. The aid grant was also applied to really short academic programs, which is not the case with more established federal and state aid.

Nonetheless, the analyst’s office pushed to “discontinue the Golden State Education and Training Grant program at the end of the current year and eliminate any remaining funding at that time.”

Aside from the training grant, Newsom and lawmakers are signaling that California’s budget for public higher education will grow. The UC and Cal State systems each expect more than $200 million in state support for their core academic missions – increases of 5% over the previous year. Newsom and lawmakers also want to commit another $227 million for a new financial aid program aimed primarily at students from middle-class families, among other commitments such as affordable student housing.

What is being proposed is a “robust budget,” Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, a Democrat from Sacramento, said at a budget hearing last week. It’s not “perfect, but an A- for continuing our priorities.”