Online application available for undocumented students to receive emergency grants

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UC Berkeley’s Undocumented Student Program is now accepting online applications for spring semester emergency grants of up to $500 in order to assist undocumented campus students, who are unable to receive federal financial aid.

USP, which provides counsel and support to undocumented students, is awarding two types of emergency grants: a grant for housing-related costs and a general grant for other unforeseen emergencies, such as food insecurity or medical emergencies. After a student applies for a grant, counselors review the application to determine the financial need of the applicant and allocate funds accordingly on a first-come, first-served basis.

The grants are funded by a variety of sources, including donors, sponsors and the UC Office of the President, according to Deisy Leanos, educational opportunity program intake staff for USP.

Juan Prieto, USP’s social media coordinator and a former Daily Californian staff member, added that the program has launched an online campaign to acquire additional funding for the grants because of the uncertainty of the current political climate. Prieto said that grants will be given out until all secured funds have been used.

Leanos said that the grants, which were initiated in 2013, are meant to address the ongoing financial limitations of undocumented students.

“Students are very appreciative of the grants. It’s not a large amount, but anything helps,” Leanos said. “For students from low-income families, it’s very beneficial because they don’t have the privilege or opportunity to get help from their parents. There’s outside and internal factors that affect financial needs.”

In addition to the emergency grants, undocumented students are eligible for emergency loans from the financial aid office, though unlike the grants, they must be paid back.

ASUC Senator Benyamin bin Mohd Yusof, who is an undocumented student, said the grants are needed. He noted that undocumented students are prone to housing and job insecurity because they may not be able to obtain work permits or have established credit to secure a lease.

Yusof recounted the experience of his undocumented friend who was forced to take on an additional job driving for Lyft in order to help with expenses — to the detriment of his schoolwork and extracurriculars.

“So from an educational lens, (the grants) offer a lot of great benefits,” Yusof said. “It ensures that students from a vulnerable community, undocumented students, can focus on their schooling.”

Prieto, an undocumented student who has relied on grants himself, said many undocumented students send money home to their parents in addition to supporting themselves.

“Sometimes I wonder whether I’m going to eat or have a roof over my head and the grants allow me to have both of them,” Prieto said. “It’s important for undocumented students to have resources, especially now that job security is at risk. It allows us to have that sort of backup should anything arise.”

Contact Michelle Perales at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @machellelucy.