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By Riccardo Italiano

CCC Journalism Program

BLACKWOOD – International students can now apply for CARES Act III funding.

The United States Congress established the CARES Act, or Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, fund in 2020. The fund distributes money directly to students, who can use it to pay for their tuition, accommodation or food. Initially, only U.S. citizens were eligible to apply, but as of spring 2021, international students are also eligible.

John Fragakis discusses the CARES Act in Madison Hall. Photo by Riccardo Italiano, CCC Journalism Program

Lani Nguyen, the director of international students services at Camden County College, handles the CARES Act funding process for international students. “I know what it means to leave your own country and family to follow your dreams,” Nguyen says. “These guys come from all over the world, they left their comfort zone to study in a different language and live in a different environment, and I will always do my best to help them.”

Congress gave a huge hand to all students who are not eligible for other financial aid and cannot work in this country, she states, but the future of the CARES Act fund is uncertain and depends on how the COVID-19 pandemic evolves.

John Fragakis, a sports management student at CCC, is a first-year international student from England. He says he didn’t hear about the availability of CARES Act funding until the middle of his first semester, which he attributed to the fact it had only recently become available to students.

Joao Goncalves discusses funding in his studio. Photo by Riccardo Italiano, CCC Journalism Program

“It was a great surprise and the initiative is great, especially for international students like myself who don’t have the opportunity to work on-campus or off-campus due to holding an F1 student visa and no SSN,” he states. “It went a long way to helping cover my rent and allowed me to feel less pressured with all the economic stress I have as an international student.”

Joao Goncalves is a first-year international student from Portugal. He expressed surprise when he learned international students would qualify for CARES Act funding.

“Life here is far more expensive than in Portugal,” he says, adding many colleges in his country do not assist students financially even though people are struggling economically. “We are not eligible for financial aid. I’m glad the Congress agreed to include overseas students in the CAF.”

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