Student Government SG Generic

Students are one step closer to receiving additional funds for rent relief.

The UF Student Government Budget and Appropriations Committee voted unanimously Friday to pass a rent relief bill. If passed twice more by the Senate, the bill will transfer $500,000 from the SG reserve account to eligible students. 

The Executive Committee, made up of the Student Body President, Vice President and Treasurer, first approved the bill last week. Its next opportunity for passage will be on May 12, during the first of the Senate’s weekly Summer meetings.

The bill aims to help off-campus students pay for rent and any outstanding payments from March to May, said co-author of the bill, Student Body President Trevor Pope.

Not paying rent will negatively affect students’ credit scores and future job applications, he said. If passed, this bill seeks to ensure that students don’t face those consequences.

“As student government leaders, our students' future should be our top priority and really the most important thing on our mind, which is why we decided to create this bill,” he said.

When deciding the amount of money SG should transfer for rent relief, Pope said factors like the number of students in off-campus housing and the average cost of rent were considered. 

They also kept in mind the need to retain money in the SG reserve account, an account that collects leftover funds at the end of each year. If enrollment declines as a result of COVID-19, SG will make less money from fees for the Summer or Fall semesters, Pope said. 

As of March 11, SG has more than $4.3 million in its reserve account.

If the bill is passed, Pope said the funds will be available to international and DACA students – students who cannot receive funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, a federal act awarding emergency financial aid to students. 

During Friday’s meeting, the committee also passed a bill that would amend Senate codes to allow leftover funds from student organizations to carry over from one semester to the next. According to current codes, unused funds go directly into the SG reserve account.

Asian American Student Union co-president, Zachary Raad, said the rollover bill would be helpful because many AASU events were canceled because of COVID-19. Much of its funding went unused.

“Due to the whole situation that went down this semester regarding the public health crisis, it's really important to student organizations as a whole are still able to use those funds that were allocated to us,” the 20-year-old UF chemistry and Chinese senior said.

Inter-Residence Hall Association President Colin Solomon said he would support any bill that improves funding for student organizations. The organization puts together events and activities for housing residents, and it is one of the biggest and most-funded student organizations on campus.

Still, the 19-year-old Keys Complex senator said he isn’t sure if IRHA will receive funding this year.

IRHA uses SG funds to pay for events like their annual Writing on the Wall event, where  students help to build and destroy a wall representative of verbal harassment. IRHA plans to fundraise through Chipotle and other events if they cannot receive SG funding.

SG also denied a line item transfer, a request for allocated funds to be used in a different purpose than they were allocated for, for the Hispanic Student Association. The transfer requested more than $1,500 be moved from food to advertising. HSA did not reply to The Alligator’s requests for comment on Facebook or email.

The committee also passed a bill that would make plant-based food and gluten-free food mandatory at all SG sponsored events. Senators will vote on whether to put this bill into action at the next meeting.

 Contact Meghan at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @meggmcglone.