USM offers help to community during shutdown

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Photo by Dionne Smith / Photography Director

By Zoe Bernardi, Staff Writer

The effects of the 34 day long government shutdown, which is currently in a three week break, can be seen throughout the country. President Trump’s veto on the budget that did not include funding for a border wall, caused the shutdown. The only way to lift the veto is for congress to gets two thirds of the house in a congress with a republican majority.

The shutdown has left many federal workers without a paycheck for over a month, affecting people all over the country, even here at USM. Many students are affected due to themselves or parents working for the Federal Government.

Nancy Griffin, the VP for Enrollment Management & Chief Operating Officer at USM recently sent out an email to all students mentionings ways that USM is offering help during the government shutdown to students. The school is offering help through an an emergency loan program from financial aid, the food pantry in the Woodbury Campus Center, and the textbooks on reserves in the library.

Keith DuBois who works at the Portland campus offices for Student Financial Services explained that the Federal financial aid program is not affected by the shutdown at all, due to it being approved by congress in October of last year. However the students that are affected by the shutdown have the issues of not being able to pay for the spring tuition, rent, food and transportation.

DuBois stated that USM started dispersing funds starting on Jan. 12 of this year and have been sending funds twice a week since then. On Jan. 12, a total of $26 million dollars were sent to student accounts and the refunded money that was left in each account was about $6 million dollars. After the bills are paid the leftover money is refunded to the student. These refunded dollars were given to students to help aid in transportation, rent, food and school supplies for the upcoming semester. So far a total of 2,044 refunds have been done at USM, and that number continues to grow each day.  

Griffin stated that, “We don’t know how many students are affected, we are simply working with each student who comes forward. I have had dozens of emails from students and I know that Student Financial Services has been helping students every day.” Students on payment plans must ask for deferment and have to self identify that they are affected by the shutdown. Once these students come forward to USM, all charges and fees are released and allow students to not worry about sending in payments on time.  

However, if both the student and parents are being affected by the shutdown and not being paid, they can apply for the emergency loan that USM offers. The loan can be done at both locations of the Financial Student Services campuses. It can also be approved in less than 12 hours. Dubois said, “We tell students to come in the morning and by late afternoon the loan is done and approved.” The loan is put into the students accounts and they are given 30 days to repay it.

Besides the financial aid help, the library has the textbooks on reserve project in partnership with the Student Government Association. The project’s goal was to provide a cheaper option for students who cannot afford textbooks each semester. Most books are focused on core 100 level courses, but also offer 200 level books as well. According to the USM website, “the textbooks will be on Library Reserves at the campus where the course is taught most often for a two hour reserve check out for in library use.” (For more information about the textbook project go to: https://usm.maine.edu/library/textbooks-reserve-project)

In addition, USM also has a campus food pantry, which is located in the Woodbury Campus Center in Portland. The pantry is open Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The food pantry is open to all students as well as all community members. It is stock frequently with food that is easily prepared and non-perishable. Madeleine Lutts, the Graduate Assistant for Commuter Student Services & the Food Pantry, stated that, “we had a very successful food drive competition in November which brought in over 1300 food items…  received a generous donation of over $5,000T”. The $5,000 was donated by the University Credit Union through their “Ending Hunger on Campus in Maine” campaign.” This campaign is used to raise funds for the eight University of Maine System campus food pantries. Students can donate non-perishable food items to the food pantry during their open hours. The USM website also has a wish list of food that is always needed. They also accept monetary donations, such as checks, cash and grocery gift cards. (For more information students can go to: https://usm.maine.edu/deanofstudents/campus-food-pantry).

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