Guidance related to Federal Work Study (FWS) recipients affected by California wildfires or power outages

Office of Postsecondary Education
Guidance related to Federal Work Study (FWS) recipients affected by California wildfires or power outages

In this announcement, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) is issuing guidance in response to institutions that closed campuses during the Fall 2019 payment period due to wildfires or related power outages in California. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has not declared California, as a result of these fires and power outages, a major disaster as defined in The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5122(2)); however, a number of campuses were required to close one or more times as a result of the wildfires or related power outages.

The Department is providing flexibility to institutions in complying with the requirements established in 34 CFR 675.16 (a)(5), which states that FWS compensation is earned when the student performs work. For students who were prevented from fulfilling their FWS obligations at a California college during the Fall 2019 payment period as a direct result of a campus closure because of wildfires or related power outages, an institution may make FWS payments to those students for an amount equal to or less than the amount of FWS wages the students would have been paid if the students had been able to complete their work obligation other than because of such closures.

For a student to qualify to receive funds under this flexibility, the student must have received a FWS award for the award period during which the institution was temporarily closed due to the wildfires and related power outages, earned FWS wages from the institution for that award period, and have been prevented from fulfilling their FWS obligation for all or part of the FWS award period because of the temporary campus closure(s) due to wildfires and related power outages.

Institutions that wish to avail themselves of this flexibility should maintain documentation of its use to ensure proper recordkeeping for any future audit or program review.  Institutions are also expected to meet their FWS wage share requirements for payments to students under this regulatory flexibility. If the institution has any questions, it may contact the San Francisco/Seattle School Participation Division at: 415-486-5677 or

Last Modified: 12/22/2019