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Montana State University has started distributing $5.3 million in federal coronavirus relief to more than 7,400 low-income students.

The university announced that direct student aid started going out this week from the federal CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act.

Undergraduate and graduate students are receiving grants of $300 to $900 each, depending on the level of financial need shown in students’ FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) forms.

MSU followed U.S. Department of Education guidelines and used FAFSA data to determine which students have the greatest need.

MSU President Waded Cruzado said in a news release that the university used its existing information on low-income students’ eligibility for federal Pell grants and other measures of need to get dollars quickly to those needing help.

The federal money is intended to help students pay for such expenses as food, housing, class materials, technology, health care and childcare.

“We know the pandemic has been tough on students, as many of them held jobs in fields that were shut down this spring,” Cruzado said. “They have unpaid bills, and hopefully this federal aid will provide them some relief.”

MSU sent students a short application form May 13 to confirm they’re eligible. Grants started going out this week. Students have until June 30 to submit applications.

Cruzado also thanked alumni, friends and faculty members who gave money to the Bobcat Relief Fund, which MSU set up as an emergency fund to help students with financial struggles from the virus pandemic and resulting recession.

“It’s a testament to the strength of the Bobcat family,” Cruzado said.

The Bobcat Relief Fund, set up in March, had received more than 500 requests and helped 428 students as of this week.

More than 190 people, businesses and charities have donated, raising more than $125,210 as of Thursday, up from $112,985 the day before. The foundation is still raising money and its goal is to reach $200,000 by the end of June.

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Gail Schontzler can be reached at gails@dailychronicle.com or 582-2633.