Main content
Support employees by helping the Emory University Hardship Fund thrive
Woman looking at medical bill

From natural disasters to unexpected medical expenses, the Emory University Hardship Fund offers financial aid to university employees dealing with a sudden life-changing event. Faculty or staff in need can apply for assistance anonymously.

— Getty Images/Daisy-Daisy

The Emory University Hardship Fund has been watching out for Emory faculty and staff since 2010. Now, there’s a call for help from the university community as the fund faces a critical shortage.

The fund was established to assist employees who are going through a difficult time or dealing with a sudden life-changing event. These events can vary greatly, from natural disasters (such as fires or tornadoes) to ruptured pipes, loss of income, death in the family or medical expenses. What doesn’t change is the difference the Hardship Fund makes in the lives of employees and their families.

Taking care of employees

The Emory University Hardship Fund is largely employee-funded, with 100% of monies going to faculty and staff who are granted assistance. Other funding is through one-time donations from the broader Emory community.  

To be eligible, an employee must be a regular faculty or staff member working at least 20 hours for at least a year. The employee also must not have violated Emory’s Standards of Conduct Policy within the past twelve months.

The process for applying for assistance is completely confidential. After completing the application form on the Emory Work-Life website, applicants work with the fund’s coordinator, Mary Ellen Eady, to gather all the necessary paperwork and supporting evidence of financial need.

“My job is to help people apply,” Eady notes. “To help people review the information so they can try to receive as much as they can with the proper documentation.”

Eady presents each applicant’s case anonymously to a small committee of representatives from Emory Staff Council and Human Resources. Though any eligible staff or faculty member at Emory can apply, not every applicant will be approved to receive funding. Those who do may be awarded up to $2,500.

Awards categorized as Tier 1 address catastrophic events such as a death in the family or losses from a natural disaster. Tier 2 awards are for temporary emergencies such as unexpected car repairs or help with housing issues.

Many individuals who have received funding send statements to Eady expressing their immense appreciation. “You really have no idea what a relief this is,” one recipient shared. “The last few months — years, really — have been so stressful. This is a huge weight off my shoulders.”

Building a fund to last

Between 2020-23, the fund awarded more money ($224,360) than it collected in donations ($132,959). That led to the realization that the fund was in critical need of help if it was to continue aiding employees.

“This is the first year that [the fund has] really been in trouble, and I think that has a lot to do with the COVID effect,” says Eady. Staff turnover, retirements and a general lack of employee awareness have all been noted as reasons for the drop in donations.

Dawn Francis-Chewning, past president of the Emory Staff Council, agrees. “My observation is that there has been so much turnover and anyone who had a recurring donation and has since left Emory … [the money is] just lost,” she says.

She adds that many new employees aren’t necessarily aware of the fund and may not know how to donate. “That’s a significant number,” she says.

Emory’s top leadership recently stepped in to help. Working in partnership with the Staff Council, the Offices of President Gregory L. Fenves and Chris Augostini, executive vice president for business administration, donated a $25,000 match for the fund. Both offices hope to keep it going and inspire others to give.

Staff Council President Shervon Lewis is grateful for the contribution from leadership. She notes that larger donations can help address the fund’s immediate need and give more staff members a chance to benefit — but that any size donation makes a difference. 

How to donate to the fund

Francis-Chewning served on the University Senate when then-Staff Council President Matt Engelhardt first presented the concept of the Hardship Fund. She didn’t hesitate to donate, especially after dealing with personal loss herself.

“I wanted to be a part of that because everybody needs help. And I thought, who would I love to help more than my Emory family? That's what I've always considered Emory to be,” says Francis-Chewning. She’s been giving to the fund ever since its creation through payroll deductions.

Staff, faculty, or community members have several options for supporting the Emory University Hardship Fund. Individuals or groups can make a single donation through the fund’s website. Emory staff and faculty can also opt for a recurring payroll deduction of any amount via PeopleSoft Self-Service.

The fund will also be featured in the upcoming Emory Day of Giving (March 27-28). If you would like to support the fund and have your early gift count for Day of Giving, use this special donation link before March 26.

Nina Acosta, current Staff Council member and Hardship Fund chair, sums up the need for the fund: “You don't know who [the fund is] going to help. It could help the person sitting in the cubicle next to you.”

Learn more about the Emory University Hardship Fund and get answers to your questions by emailing Emory Staff Council.

Any Emory University employee can contribute to the Hardship Fund via recurring payroll deductions:

  1. Log on to PeopleSoft Self-Service.
  2. Click on the “Employee Giving” box.
  3. Choose “Emory Employee Giving.”
  4. Choose “Employee Hardship Fund” in the “Direction” scroll-down menu.
  5. Follow the directions to complete the process.

Donations are tax deductible.

Recent News