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Kiersten Essenpreis for Money

College students are finally starting see their share of more than $6 billion in federal funds set aside for emergency financial aid grants.

Six weeks after Congress passed its massive coronavirus relief bill, the money has been slow to reach students and won’t be enough to help all those who could use it, experts say.

The CARES Act provides $14 billion for colleges and universities, many of which are facing an existential financial threat with the coronavirus. Nearly half of that money must be given directly to students to help them deal with expenses brought on by the spread of COVID-19.

The University of Pittsburgh is one of the colleges that said last week that it had distributed its emergency grants—sending most of its $10.6 million in aid to more than 11,000 students. Other colleges, meanwhile, have posted applications with deadlines later this week to determine how they'll distribute the grant aid.

Many institutions only received their portion of the money from the government in past week or so. As of Monday, the Education Department says it has issued $5.6 billion, about 90% of the total.

One thing students should keep in mind: The grants are intended to cover expenses caused by campus disruptions due to coronavirus-related closures. But they are not meant to help fill new financial need due to coronavirus if, say, students or their parents lost jobs.