By Annette M. Lesure
East Los Angeles College will receive a refund from the district and has set student needs as its priority for the 2021 Spring semester budget.
Critical matters being managed for students as distance learning continues into 2021 range from food, cash aid, Wi-Fi, hotspots, ChromeBooks, and laptops. If a student is in need, all they may do is contact Student Services for instructions on how to apply.
ELAC President Alberto Román said students were the main focus for the administration “…Learning environments have presented challenges, as well as managing jobs, schools, and families. But this is why we call it the ‘ELAC family.’ We are in this together,” said Román.
He said students should attend budget meetings to inform themselves and participate in surveys so that students’ needs can continue to be met.
The $2.2 trillion economic stimulus bill, known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES ACT), signed into law on March 27, 2020, authorized The Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF).
HEERF was allotted 22 billion dollars, of which 27 million was awarded to ELAC. This fund has provided more than five million dollars in direct aid to ELAC students to date. The ELAC Budget Committee will vote on the best ways to use the funds.
In addition to CARES ACT, two other sources assisting with food vouchers and cards are Second Harvest Food Bank and Cal-Fresh.
Additionally, future money will come from the District Budget Committee (DBC), which is preparing to issue a refund to ELAC’s General Fund of nearly two million dollars. While staff opinions vary on how ELAC should allocate this money, expenditures will be decided on an as-needed basis, prioritized by greatest necessity.
Contrary to the idea that this money is an award, these funds are a “refund,” meaning that the DBC will give ELAC back the money that the school previously paid to them for assessments. Pending other sources reimbursing ELAC for emergency expenses, the staff holds on to hope that the funds will eventually be reissued to the departments and staff that took the hits.
ELAC Vice President of Administrative Services Myeshia Armstrong said that the General Fund balance carries over to the next fiscal year. When discussing future plans for the refund, Armstrong said, “It is part of our existing operating budget, and we hope to have a decent ending fund balance in anticipation of the coming back for the restoration of courses on campus and the whole operation. Right now, what we are hearing is still the Fall of 2021. Of course, with the vaccine rollout and the slowdown of that, it could be more like Spring of 2022; at this point, it is still up in the air, but we want to make sure that we have plenty of reserve depending on a lot of variables.”
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), is another source that is expected to refund some of ELAC’s COVID-19 emergency expenses. Despite the time of distribution to ELAC the money FEMA is scheduled to send,would further allow for the DBC’s refund to replenish previous cutbacks, said Armstrong.
The ELAC Foundation offers an additional 50 laptops that students can apply for and have already given ELAC 100 hotspots to distribute. It also provides information on scholarships, assistance, and volunteerism inquiries for those wanting to pay it forward. For information contact the ELAC Foundation at (323) 260-8197.
ELAC currently also supports students during distance learning by providing academic counseling 24/7 so that students feel they have access to help at any time in their schedules. All Huskies are encouraged to take advantage of this outlet, as it provides tools for proven success.
The ELAC will also now provide one hundred Wi-Fi parking spots, this will be another tool Huskies can take advantage of. These are the preliminary stages of being near the campus. Many plans are underway to prepare for health and safety measures following district guideless. Because the rush was to provide Wi-Fi for students in need, there will be no access to bathrooms or charging outlets for devices at this time, until safety measures are in place. Students must stay in their vehicles at all times. Román recommended that they charge all batteries and reduce the unnecessary use of apps in order to reserve phones for backup. “There are businesses nearby with bathrooms and charging ports that may be open. Students may leave and return to the lot as needed,” said Román.
As a reminder to all students, maintaining positive Husky morale by using the honor system should be considered when deciding to stay on or off-camera while on Zoom. While being on-camera is not mandatory due to some students not having the ability, it would boost teachers’ and students’ respect levels to remain on-camera whenever possible. Professors are working diligently, putting their hearts and souls into making this happen; a reciprocation of a smiling face on Zoom would go a long way to show gratitude.
The Budget Committee is saving ELAC’s money for the rainy days ahead as the campus transitions and prepares for a safe return and all that it will entail doing so.
For more information or support on applying for extra assistance, contact:ELAC Student Services at https://www.elac.edu/Student-Services.
Or visit the ELAC Mental Health Department at https://www.elac.edu/Student-Services/Student-Resources/Student-Health-Center/Mental-Healthcan, for the vast support groups available to students.