Postdoctoral Hardship Support Fund

The Columbia University Postdoctoral Hardship Support Fund provides financial assistance to Employees, covered under the collective bargaining agreement, with a temporary hardship due to an unexpected medical emergency (e.g., medical, dental, prescription, and vision expenses for themselves or their covered dependents causing financial hardship) or other unanticipated expenses causing financial hardship. Hardship Support Fund awards are grants that reimburse actual expenses. These awards are not loans and are not repaid. However, they may be taxable.

The Hardship Support Fund will reimburse payments to Employees for up to $5,000 per academic year (July 1 to June 30). Expenses must be incurred within the current academic year (and submitted no later than the deadline for the submission period immediately after the close of the academic year) to be reimbursed and no carryover of expenses into following year is permitted. No reimbursements are made for the prior year in the current year. For each application period, reimbursement requests should be limited to expenses incurred since the beginning of the immediately preceding application period. Each request is considered on its own merits, and not all requests will be funded. Any determinations made by the University concerning the eligibility of Employees or the distribution of funds shall not be grievable. At the conclusion of each academic year, the Union and the Office for Postdoctoral Affairs and Early Career Research (OPA) will evaluate the utilization of the Hardship Support Fund.

For details on how to apply, please scroll to the bottom of the page. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • Unexpected medical emergencies (e.g., medical, dental, prescription, and vision expenses for you or your covered dependents causing financial hardship)
  • Unanticipated expenses causing financial hardship (e.g., emergency childcare, loss of housing, death of family member including funeral and travel costs, extraordinary relocation costs, loss of family income, or natural disaster, etc.)
  • Expected and anticipated regular monthly living expenses
  • Research-related expenses (including computers and laptops, equipment and accessories, or travel to conferences)
  • Commuting expenses, such as parking and Uber/Lyft rides to work
  • Standard medical, dental, prescription, and vision expenses (e.g., health plan deductibles, monthly premiums, co-pays, routine care, etc.)
  • Elective procedures
  • Educational expenses for you or your dependents
  • Ordinary moving expenses
  • Legal expenses (excluding legal expenses directly related to financial hardships)
  • Vacation expenses
  • Routine veterinary bills
  • Visa or immigration costs (including medical exams); For entry visa stamp renewals, Employees as defined by this collective bargaining agreement, may request reimbursement for necessary administrative fees and pre-approved travel expenses.

The Review Committee is a small group of Columbia University administrative
officers and members of the Union.

To the extent possible, identifying information of the applicant will be removed before sending to the Review Committee. In ordinary course of operations, applications will not be shared beyond the Review Committee. 

The payment will be sent either via an electronic transfer if your record is set up for direct deposit or via a paper check to the U. S. local or permanent address on file. You may confirm your setup on the employee self-service page in PAC accessible through the MyColumbia portal.

If approved, funds are generally disbursed the month following the submission deadline, as outlined below, after all required supporting documentation has been received. Please note the schedule below only applies to 2024 claims with a billing date of January 1, 2024 or later.

Submission Deadline    Payment Month
March 15                         April
July 15                             August 
October 15                       November

All claims should be submitted to your insurance first (e.g. medical, homeowners insurance, renters insurance) before submitting to the hardship fund.

Yes, provided that all reimbursements are subject to a per-person annual cap. Each employee can be reimbursed for up to $5,000 per academic year (July 1 to June 30) as long as funds remain available in the overall Hardship Fund. 

Expenses must be qualifying expenses under Internal Revenue Code Section 213(d) that are incurred primarily for the prevention or alleviation or a physical or mental disability or illness.  This does not include expenses that are merely beneficial to general health.
For a more detailed description of qualifying expenses, refer to IRS Publication 502, available at

For general questions, please email your union representative [email protected]. For questions regarding application processing, email [email protected].


Submit your online application with all required documentation.

Required documentation:

  • Completed Qualtrics application
  • Medical, dental, prescription, or vision bill plus any document confirming payment you received through your health insurance policy statement such as an Explanation of Benefits (EOB) document.
  •  Proof of payment, i.e., credit card statements, bank statements, cancelled checks, if applicable
  • For other types of emergency requiring financial assistance, please provide invoices or billing documents