Portland Community College students can get help with groceries, internet access or other emergency expenses

PMG FILE PHOTO - PCC students in need can get help with groceries and other basic expenses after the Portland Community College Foundation recently approved $750,000 to help struggling students.Portland Community College students who are struggling financially due to the COVID-19 pandemic may now be able to get assistance through their school.

The PCC Foundation announced a $750,000 fund to help students with basic needs like living expenses and computer and internet access.

"Supporting PCC students is an essential philanthropic investment," said Karen Kervin, PCC Foundation Board president. "These funds directly help those who need it the most. The Foundation is fortunate to have some rainy day savings, and it's raining."

PCC campuses have been closed and classes are now offered online, in keeping with a statewide stay-home order.

Since the school and business closures took effect, Oregonians have lost jobs and income. Officials at PCC say the economic standstill has hit community college students hard, as a 2019 survey of students from the state's 17 different community colleges showed 41% of those surveyed said they were food insecure, while 52% said they struggled to afford housing.

The community college said students who relied on campus food pantries before the pandemic are in even more dire circumstances now.

In addition, many vulnerable students who held multiple jobs to support their studies and families, now face unemployment.

Of the $750,000 allotment, $350,000 will go toward the foundation's Overcoming Barriers Emergency Grant program. Grant funds can be used for emergency expenses like car repairs, housing, utilities, medical bills, threats to safety, or tuition and books for the spring 2020 term.

An additional $300,000 will be used to purchase grocery store gift cards for students, thanks in-part to a Kroger/Fred Meyer Zero Hunger Zero Waste grant. The remaining $100,000 is slated to purchase high speed internet and computers for students in need, according to a news release.

The college said $50 grocery gift cards are being sent to students who used a campus food pantry last year. "Gift cards have begun to be emailed out to students this week," James Hill, PCC public relations manager, said Thursday. "Students apply for the emergency grants from the emergency resources portal on our website on our website. We have processed 50 grants in the last week and have more than 300 applications in progress and more I'm sure to come."

Hill said PCC students were surveyed abour their needs. Those who replied will get a grocery gift card every two weeks for the rest of the spring term. Additional students in need are being referred to the program by student services staff and are expected to receive gift cards as well.

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