Basic Needs Center announces international students eligible for 2 assistance programs

Vanessa Lim/Staff

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UC Berkeley’s Basic Needs Center announced Thursday that international students will now be eligible for campus emergency rental assistance and the campus Food Assistance Program.

The emergency rental assistance program — designed to help undergraduate and graduate students in emergency situations with one month’s rent — was introduced in December 2019 by the Student Advocate’s Office and the Basic Needs Center, in collaboration with the campus Financial Aid and Scholarships Department and the Graduate Assembly.

“I am hopeful that there will be a lot more students who can be served in these new programs, especially international students who haven’t been eligible for these awards previously,” said ASUC Student Advocate Nava Bearson. “We have had really productive conversations about how to serve international students.”

Campus’s Berkeley International Office, or BIO, has worked closely with the Basic Needs Center and the financial aid office to support international students in need of aid, according to BIO spokesperson Krista Holobar.

International students are not eligible for federal, state and need-based university financial aid. BIO, however, offers a limited number of need-based scholarship options for international students. After these changes, students now have a broader set of options to choose from.

“Originally those programs were not necessarily accessible for international students,” said BIO assistant director for student services Erin Skelly. “We definitely felt that it was important for our students to have access to those types of programs.”

According to Skelly, BIO wanted to make adjustments to the current programs or redirect international students to resources they could benefit from.

The Food Assistance Program, run by the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office, began searching for food assistance award options that could be offered to international students last semester, according to campus spokesperson Adam Ratliff.

Ratliff noted that some but not all funding for the Food Assistance Program — including funds from campus fee referendums — would be available for international students.

“There are limitations that prevent international students from receiving government assistance,” Bearson said. “But because these are student fee-funded programs we are more flexible and we can award them to international students without creating situations that are not ideal for them.”

According to Bearson, funds from the Student Basic Needs referendum, which was voted on by the student body in spring 2019, allowed the change to be made.

Ratliff added that the Food Assistance Program is still in the process of finding other potential consequences, such as tax implications, that might affect international students who use the resources.

“We are hopeful this will assist more students in need of support,” Ratliff said in an email. “We encourage international students to consult with the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office to help explore their options.”

Olivia González-Britt is a student life reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @Oliviagbritt.