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American Rescue Plan: Higher Education Emergency Relief Funding (HEERF III)

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In March 2021, Congress signed into law The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. This law included money set aside for colleges and universities, with over $25 million designated to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. This endowment is designed to assist students with expenses brought about due to the pandemic via the third iteration of the fund called the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF III).

Through this fund, various financial awards are available to UT students, each with different eligibility requirements. The university’s distribution of HEERF III funds was developed under guidance provided by the U.S. Department of Education.


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One-time grants will be available for undergraduate and graduate students based on their financial need. The amount awarded to qualifying students will vary dependent on the student’s 2021-22 FAFSA of record.

Next Steps?

You must have a valid 2021–22 FAFSA on file with the university in order to be considered eligible. You will not be required to fill out an additional application to be considered.

Awards were disbursed to eligible students in mid-September.

Students that were not eligible for Title IV aid due to citizenship requirements may have been eligible for a one-time grant awarded through HEERF III funding. These students included International, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, et al.

Next Steps?

To have been considered, you were required to fill out an application. Funds were awarded on a first-come, first-served basis while funds were available.

While all funds were disbursed by late September, funding may still be available through the Dean of Students’ Student Emergency Fund.

This award supports undergraduate students who have retaken a course required for their degree program by providing funding toward the cost of the course (up to the value of 3 credit hours).

Next Steps?

You are not required to have a 2021–22 FAFSA on file or to fill out an application to be considered.

If you are eligible, you will be identified by UT using your degree audit. Awards were disbursed the week of October 4, 2021. If eligible, you would have been notified by email when you have received the grant.

This award is designed to support graduate and professional students who demonstrated that the pandemic contributed to a delay in the completion of their degree program.

Next Steps?

In order to be considered for this award, you must be a current graduate or professional student who was enrolled in your graduate program spring 2021 (or earlier) and has experienced a pandemic-related delay in graduation.

You were required to fill out an application in order to be considered. The deadline to submit an application was Thursday, September 30, 2021.


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Frequently Asked Questions

Does a HEERF III award impact my eligibility for other types of financial aid?

  • No. Unlike many forms of aid, the HEERF III awards will not have any impact on a your financial aid for the current academic year.

If I did not submit a FAFSA for 2021–22, can I still get a HEERF III award? OR Can I still file a FAFSA and be eligible for a HEERF III award?

  • Only students that have a valid 2021–22 FAFSA on file with the university will be considered for HEERF III awards that include a valid 2021–22 FAFSA as part of their requirements.
  • If you have yet to file your 2021–22 FAFSA, we strongly encourage you to do so (UT’s federal school code is 003530) to be considered for potential federal emergency relief funding should it become available in the future. Click the button below to file your 2021–22 FAFSA.

File Your 2021–22 FAFSA

My parent(s) lost their job, so my FAFSA would now put me in the lowest earning tier. Can I get more emergency aid than my earlier EFC for the year would suggest?

  • If you have had a significant change in your or your family’s financial situation due to the pandemic, you are encouraged to contact One Stop to discuss options for completing a Professional Judgement appeal. This will allow for a Financial Aid Counselor to review a student’s situation to determine if the student is eligible for additional funding support.
    • The university will also be hosting Zoom sessions for you to learn more about Professional Judgement appeals. Learn more by clicking the button below.

Learn More About Professional Judgement

Is there a maximum amount I can get in HEERF III awards?

  • If you are eligible to receive more than one HEERF III award (Block Grant, International, DACA, or other undocumented student Block Grant, Vol Academic Recovery Grant (Undergraduate Students) and/or Vol Academic Recovery Grant (Graduate Students)), the maximum amount you can receive in awards from HEERF III funding is a total of $5,000.

Why is my HEERF III award amount lower than the amount of student loans I borrowed for this year?

  • The HEERF III award amount(s) are not directly tied to your loan amount borrowed.

How will I get the funds from my HEERF III award(s)?

  • If you are eligible for an award, you will receive an email from the university and do not have to take any action to receive the funds. If you have selected e-Refunds (i.e. Direct Deposit), you will receive the award(s) electronically. If not, you will receive a check mailed to your address on file.

How will I be notified if I receive a HEERF III award?

  • If you are eligible for an award, you will receive an email from the university notifying you. No other action would be needed from you to receive the funding. Awards will be visible to you in your MyUTK account.

Do I have to document or provide proof about how I used my HEERF III award funds?

  • No, you are not required to provide documentation for how the awards are used, but the intent of the awards are to assist you with expenses related to COVID-19 for fall 2021.

Do HEERF III grants have to be repaid?

  • No, if you receive a one-time HEERF III award, you will not have to repay this funding.

Do I have to pay taxes on my HEERF III grant?

  • The IRS classifies emergency financial aid grants as qualified disaster relief payments under section 139 of the Internal Revenue Code and as such they are not included in your gross income.

What if I still owe a balance?

  • HEERF III funds will be disbursed via direct deposit or a check. They will not be automatically applied to an outstanding university account balance. If you have a remaining account balance, you are still responsible for payment.

I did not receive a HEERF III award, but I am experiencing financial hardship. 


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Other Things to Know

Dean of Students Emergency Fund

As a reminder, the Student Emergency Fund is also available and provides limited, time-sensitive emergency funding for UT students experiencing financial hardship.

To learn more about the fund, click the button below.

Dean of Students Emergency Fund


Direct Deposit

If you are eligible to receive an award through HEERF III, it is strongly encouraged that you sign up for direct deposit. This will allow the funding to be added directly to your bank account.

If you qualify for an award and do not sign up for direct deposit, a check will be sent to the address of record on your account.

How to Sign Up For Direct Deposit


Professional Judgement

If you believe extenuating or unusual circumstances caused by the pandemic may have impacted your financial aid eligibility, you may request a review of your FAFSA.

If you’d like to learn more about Professional Judgement Review, click the button below.

Learn More About Professional Judgement


HEERF Reporting

To view Reporting and Disclosure information for Covid-19 educational funding, including the second Higher Education Emergency Relief Funding (HEERF II) and Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, click the button below.

Reportings and Disclosures


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What to Do with a HEERF Award

There are many options for how you can use your award. The hope is that it is used towards the betterment of your financial health.

Financial health is a cornerstone of a your academic success and is one of the eight dimensions of wellness.  As you consider how to best use any HEERF awards to help support your financial health, it is encouraged that you take the following steps to make wise use of these resources. 

  1. Assess – Assess your financial situation and goals by answering questions including:
    1. What are your financial priorities and responsibilities?
    2. What financial commitments do you see in the future?
    3. Do you have a plan to fund your education in future semesters?
    4. How can a HEERF award help you get closer to achieving your financial and academic goals?
  2. Connect  Connect with campus resources like the Center for Financial Wellness to enhance your knowledge of ways to wisely manage your finances. The Center for Financial Wellness offers one-on-one appointments and online services including CashCourse, a self-guided resource designed to help you make financial decisions.
  3. Plan  Make a plan that helps you get closer to reaching your goals. Decide when and how you will use these resources.  You do not need to use all of your HEERF awards today or tomorrow. Depending on the financial situation, consider saving funds for a future semester. 
  4. Act – Follow through on your plan and celebrate getting a step closer to meeting your goals!  It’s ok to adjust the plan as priorities change.