Sweet Briar graduation

Sweet Briar graduates gather together during the college's May 2018 commencement ceremony in Amherst County. 

Sweet Briar College is set to receive more than $270,000 as part of emergency funding exceeding $20 million for Lynchburg-area colleges and universities.

Liberty University’s total allocation is more than $15 million, University of Lynchburg will receive more than $1.9 million, Central Virginia Community College will receive more than $1.8 million, Randolph College will receive more than $660,000 and Virginia University of Lynchburg will receive more than $350,000.

Meanwhile, the Amherst County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted during its April 7 meeting to pass a resolution supporting Sweet Briar College in achieving relief money from state and federal sources to weather coronavirus-related economic difficulties.

County Administrator Dean Rodgers said Sweet Briar President Meredith Woo recently expressed concern about ensuring small-enrollment, rural colleges such as the Amherst college are not left out of federal stimulus packages.

The resolution states the stimulus packages do not specifically address compelling needs of small, rural colleges that are vulnerable to economic downturns. Sweet Briar recently suspended all regular instruction in favor of online courses for the remainder of the academic year, as well as campus events and spring sports, and postponed graduation in May due to the virus. The resolution requests Gov. Ralph Northam and state and federal authorities devise strategies and appropriate money to help the college through the difficult period.

The college, which survived a near-closure attempt by a previous administration in 2015, represents an annual infusion of $25 million in the county and regional economy, including employment of 300 people and adding 650 residents to the county’s population, according to the resolution.

The document said Amherst County already is suffering through the closure of Central Virginia Training Center, a state-run facility that is shuttering its doors in upcoming months. CVTC in past years had generated about $87 million per year to the local economy and more than 2,000 jobs.

The resolution states Sweet Briar is “critical for the economic viability of Amherst County.”

In a recent post on Sweet Briar’s website, Woo said the pandemic will have “huge economic repercussions” for the college.

She said student workers will be paid through May 9, the end of the academic year, even though they are not on campus.

College officials are reaching out to students for feedback on how they want graduation to move forward at some point and when. “I want to make sure you have the graduation you deserve,” Woo said to seniors in the post.

The more than $270,000 slated for Sweet Briar is available through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law in recent weeks, the release said.

A minimum of half of an institution’s total allocation is required to be awarded to students as Emergency Financial Aid Grants.

According to the release, colleges and universities are required to provide cash grants to students for expenses related to disruptions to their educations because of the outbreak, including course materials and technology, as well as food, housing and childcare. In order to access the funds, institutions must submit a signed certification affirming they will distribute the funds in accordance with the law. Then the colleges or universities may determine which students will receive cash grants.

Allocations are determined by a formula prescribed in the CARES Act weighted by the number of full-time students who are eligible for Pell Grants, and the total population of the school and the number of students who were not enrolled full-time online before the coronavirus outbreak are also considered, the release said. Institutions will be able to use funds to cover costs associated with significant changes to the delivery of instruction because of the coronavirus, the release said.

News & Advance reporter Jamey Cross contributed.

Reach Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.

Reach Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.

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