How Do We Determine How Much To Pay FWS Students When Enrollment Is Disrupted By Coronavirus?

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This AskRegs Knowledgebase Q&A was updated on September 22, 2020 to note that, under certain conditions, the following guidance applies to both the 2019-20 and 2020-21 academic years when a student's Federal Work-Study (FWS) job is interrupted due to COVID-19. See AskRegs Q&A, Can We Continue To Pay FWS Students Who Are Unable To Work FWS Jobs Due To COVID-19?, for the conditions and timeframes under which this flexibility applies. Otherwise, the following guidance has not changed.

When a student is unable to work during a term or nonterm payment period that is interrupted by COVID-19 (see note below), the school must decide how much to pay FWS students for the hours they do not actually work.

According to the COVID-19 FAQs attached to the March 5, 2020 Electronic Announcement, "If an FWS student is unable to work his/her scheduled hours because of COVID-19 disruptions (school closures, employer closures, student quarantined, etc.), the school may pay the student for any scheduled hours or allow the student to work by another means (on-line, remote, telecommute, etc.). Students should be paid the wage rate that they would have been paid if they were able to work the scheduled hours.

In this circumstance, when a school pays the student for the hours the student was scheduled to work, but did not work, the school is not required to submit any documentation to the Department. However, the school must document the number of scheduled hours a student should be paid prior to paying the student. Schools should also document in the student’s file any actions that were taken regarding payment of FWS funds for scheduled hours that were not worked by the student."

According to guidance NASFAA has received from the U.S. Department of Education (ED), ED does not dictate how schools must document the hours the student was scheduled to work, just that schools must maintain records of how FWS payments were calculated (e.g., the determination of hours the student was scheduled to work). Per ED, the school can have the student submit a timesheet for the hours he or she was scheduled to work and pay FWS wages based on that. ED also indicated that timesheets are not required for students who receive FWS wages while unable to work. It would be a best practice to have the student's FWS supervisor to sign off on whatever documentation that is used; however, there may be instances when the FWS supervisor is unavailable to do so.

Also, keep the following allowances in mind:

Beyond that, ED's guidance is silent on how and when the school will pay these students, so it is the school's decision to make.

According to ED, the March 5th announcement guidance under the "Federal Work-Study (FWS)" heading applies in the following instances:

The Electronic Announcement guidance does not apply to students who decide for themselves to leave campus and/or switch to online classes. These students are not eligible to be paid FWS for any hours they do not actually work.

Important: See the April 3, 2020 Electronic Announcement for the conditions under which an FWS employee can continue to be paid while not working. See also AskRegs Q&A, Can We Continue To Pay FWS Students Who Are Unable To Work FWS Jobs Due To COVID-19?

The August 21, 2020 Electronic Announcement extends the above guidance through the end of the payment period that includes December 31, 2020 or the end of the payment period that includes the end date for the Federally-declared emergency related to COVID-19, whichever occurs later.

Notes:

AskRegs Q&As represent NASFAA's understanding of regulatory and compliance issues. They are FOR INTERNAL USE ONLY. While NASFAA believes AskRegs Q&As are accurate and factual, they have not been reviewed or approved by the U.S. Department of Education (ED). If you should need written confirmation of AskRegs information for audit or program review purposes, please contact your ED School Participation Division. NASFAA shall not be liable for technical or editorial errors or omissions contained herein; nor for incidental or consequential damages resulting from the furnishing, performance, or use of this material.