More than two months after UF Student Government passed a bill to help students pay their rent, Reaghan Wooster finally received her rent relief.
Wooster, a 22-year-old UF behavioral and cognitive neuroscience and political science Spring graduate, said the funds will be a huge help with paying for the late fee she’s incurred for her apartment at The Standard.
But having the money sooner would’ve helped her not incur a late fee, she said.
Senators passed a bill May 19 designating $500,000 from the SG reserve account, an account with more than $4 million that collects leftover money at the end of each year, to students for rent relief.
Applications for the rent relief opened May 20 and closed May 29 at 5 p.m., according to the SG website. Students were chosen based on their need, and applications were anonymous, according to the website. Funds would be distributed as soon as possible, the website says, but it may take up to 45 days for students to receive the funds.
More than 2,000 students applied for the relief, and 1,000 applicants were chosen to receive $500, Student Body President Trevor Pope wrote in an email to The Alligator. 951 of the 1,000 students have received their disbursement as of July 21.
The remaining 49 students have not received their disbursement, Pope wrote, because adding the rent relief to their financial assistance for the year would have made them have to pay back a portion of their loans.
The Office of Student Financial Affairs is researching these cases, he wrote. Although he wants these cases to be resolved as soon as possible, the office needs time to research them, he added.
When asked what this research entails and why adding rent relief to students’ financial assistance would cause them to pay back portions of their loans, Pope wrote in an email to The Alligator “I’ve provided all of the information that I have.”
Most students received their funding within 45 days from when they originally applied, SG Deputy Chief of Staff Nick Meyers, who works for the Chief of Staff in the executive branch, wrote in an email to The Alligator.
A handful of recent graduates and students who are not registered in Summer courses also experienced delays in disbursement, Meyers wrote.
Wooster, a recent graduate, said she was told in an email June 19 she was chosen to receive the rent relief fund. But she got a notification that her money was dispersed to the Bursar July 20, more than a month later, she said.
Wooster moved out of her apartment, The Standard, during Spring Break to live with her mom. In December, her mom was diagnosed with lung cancer, Wooster said. Especially because her mother is considered at high risk for COVID-19, Wooster said she did not want to expose her mom to COVID-19.
Wooster also lost her job tutoring for the UF Athletic Association, which she depended on for rent. To help make up for the losses, she applied to Aid-a-Gator, an emergency financial assistance program from UF, and the SG rent relief fund.
But even if she received the relief funding, Wooster’s rent would still not have been paid, she said. So she started selling her clothes to account for the difference, she said.
About a week after Wooster received the email saying she was chosen for the funds from SG, she still hadn’t gotten the money, she said. So she tried calling the Office of Student Financial Affairs, and they told her to contact the Bursar’s Office, which told her to contact Student Financial Affairs.
After a week of being redirected, she emailed the SG rent relief email and received a response saying her funds could be delayed because she was a recent graduate or she wasn’t enrolled in Summer classes, she said. She replied explaining that she was a recent graduate, but nobody from SG ever reached out to her again, she said.
“I was contacting them because the whole point of rent relief is to help with rent, and now you’re delaying a process, and it’s not helping for the purpose it’s trying to serve,” she said.
She continued to call the Office for Student Financial Affairs multiple times over the course of nearly three weeks, she said. July 16 she received an email from the office saying the award was added to her account, she said.
“I’m just so thankful that I took it upon myself to call Student Financial Affairs in the first place because what if I would’ve just sat here and never done anything about it?” Wooster asked.
Similarly 21-year-old UF sociology senior Rochelle Bogle, waited nearly a month to get her funds. Rochelle received an email June 19 that she was chosen to receive the relief, but it was not posted on her One.UF Bursar page until mid July, she said.
Bogle was hoping to pay for her June or July rent with the fund, but she wasn’t able to because the funds took so long to disperse, she said. Instead of the rent relief paying for a month of her rent like she wanted it to, it paid for her remaining balance to Oxford Manor, she said.
Bogle emailed the SG rent relief email, run by Meyers, July 14 when she still hadn’t received the relief. A few days later, it was posted to her account, she said.
“I got it pretty soon after that [email], which makes me wonder if I didn’t email them how long I would've waited,” Bogle said.
After Bogle lost her on-campus job as a student assistant at the Office of the Registrar, she had to turn elsewhere to help pay for her rent, she said. The SG rent relief was the help she needed, she said.
Bogle was able to pay off the rest of the money she owed Oxford Manor with the rent relief money, she said. But she wishes they were more sensitive to the time constraints students face. Rent is time-sensitive, she said.
“I really just did not have any other way to pay it other than with this rent relief money,” she said.
Meghan is a second-year UF English major. She is currently the university news editor, and in the past she’s been the SG reporter, a university general assignment reporter and a university news assistant. In her free time, she likes to read and eat sour candy.