The University of Florida administration created an emergency relief fund to aid students, staff and faculty following the tremendous impact of Hurricane Irma.
The Aid-a-Gator program was established to provide support to students who experienced a financial burden during or because of the storm. The student does not necessarily have to be at the Gainesville campus to receive aid, director of student financial affairs Rick Wilder said. Students can qualify for emergency grant money by submitting an application to the Office for Student Financial Affairs.
“We have been blessed to receive money from the Southeastern Conference as well as from private donations,” he said. “Primarily that is where the money is coming from.”
Wilder said all University of Florida students are eligible to apply regardless of whether he or she submitted a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
He said perished groceries because of a power outage or ruined clothes from flooding would be reasons for needing emergency funding. All applications will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
Eligible students who submit a claim can receive up to $500 with a detailed statement outlining their circumstances. Students can receive more than $500 with the appropriate documentation, which will vary based on the situation.
“I am not aware of any other institutions in the state of Florida that are doing what the University of Florida is doing,” Wilder said.
University of Florida student Melanie Carvajal stayed in her house located near J.J. Finley Elementary School during the storm. Carvajal is originally from St. Cloud, Florida, which is located south of Orlando. Her family evacuated to Carvajal’s Gainesville home for the storm.
Carvajal said the power went out around midnight on Sunday and did not return for 72 hours. She said she noticed the rest of the block’s power came back sooner, but her house was the last one. After Carvajal and her roommates called Gainesville Regional Utilities multiple times, she reached out to a neighbor about the power.
“My neighbor said she mentioned GRU in a tweet and her power came back on,” Carvajal said.
Carvajal said she tried to limit her groceries leading up to the storm, but her roommates had to throw away most of their food.
“They had to throw away a month’s worth of groceries,” she said. “They might look into the program to get some money back.”
Carvajal heard about Aid-a-Gator through an email sent out by the university Wednesday.
Eric Maltz, another University of Florida student, stayed in his apartment at Country Village on Archer Road during Hurricane Irma. Although his apartment was not damaged, he and his roommates took precautionary measures.
“We did board up the windows, so that dug a hole in my parents’ pocket for $500,” he said.
Maltz, who is originally from Miami, said he is unsure if there is a way to return some of the materials, but he knows the boards cannot be returned because they were used. He had not heard about the Aid-a-Gator program before.
Wilder said any student who needs assistance can call or come in to the office, located at S-107 Criser Hall to meet with a financial adviser.
All applications should be received by the Office for Student Financial Affairs by October 20. General questions about the application process or emergency fund can be found on the office’s website.
“We know that there are students out there that are in need of these funds,” he said. “We want to get it to them as soon as possible.”