Scenario: Before classes began for the fall 2020 term, our school decided that dorms would close, students would not be allowed back on campus, and all classes would be online from Thanksgiving through the end of the fall term. This change is in response to COVID-19.
Answer: No. According to guidance NASFAA has received from the U.S. Department of Education (ED), you cannot continue to pay the student Federal Work-Study (FWS) for hours he or she is unable to work from Thanksgiving through the end of the term in this scenario when the school planned in advance for students to be sent home after Thanksgiving.
Section 3505(b) of the CARES Act states (bolded for emphasis):
"(b) DEFINITION OF AFFECTED WORK-STUDY STUDENT.—In this section, the term ‘‘affected work-study student’’ means a student enrolled at an eligible institution participating in the program under part C of title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1087–51 et seq.) who—
(1) received a work-study award under section 443 of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1087–53) for the academic year during which a qualifying emergency occurred;
(2) earned Federal work-study wages from such eligible institution for such academic year; and
(3) was prevented from fulfilling the student’s work-study obligation for all or part of such academic year due to such qualifying emergency."
Per ED, the school's up-front decision to restructure the fall semester in this way does not render the student unable to fulfill his or her FWS obligation. Assuming the student's FWS job is one that cannot be performed remotely after Thanksgiving, the student is fully aware of the period of time he or she has in which to work the hours needed to earn the FWS award. Therefore, students can still either:
See also AskRegs Knowledgebase Q&A, Can We Continue To Pay FWS Students Who Are Unable To Work FWS Jobs Due To COVID-19?
Reference: Section 443 of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA), as amended [20 USC 1087-53]
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