By Jodi Peterson
Posted on 2020-07-15
That’s the question on everyone’s mind—if Congress will pass additional COVID-19 relief funding this month before lawmakers adjourn for the August recess.
In mid-May, House of Representatives Democrats unveiled a $3 trillion COVID-19 stimulus bill, the “Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act“ or “HEROES Act,” H.R. 6800 (116).
The bill would provide states and local governments nearly $1 trillion to replace anticipated revenue shortfalls. The HEROES Act also has $100.15 billion earmarked for education. It includes $90 billion for a State Fiscal Stabilization Fund for grants that will support costs associated with making up instructional time; providing school-based supports for impacted students, families, and staff; costs associated with sanitation and cleaning for schools and school transportation; professional development for school-based staff on trauma-informed care; purchasing educational technology; coordination efforts between State educational agencies and public health departments for emergency planning, response, and recovery; training and professional development for college and university faculty and staff to use technology and services related to distance education; and emergency financial aid to postsecondary students. An additional $10.15 billion is slated to help alleviate burdens associated with the coronavirus for both colleges and students.
Unfortunately, the Democratic House bill is a non-starter in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Senate Democrats introduced a $430 billion bill for child care, K-12 schools and higher education, which includes $345 billion for the Education Stabilization Fund, which is broken down in the same way as the CARES Act, H.R. 748 (116). The Coronavirus Child Care and Education Relief Act (CCCERA) would provide $175 billion for K-12 schools, $132 billion for higher education, and $33 billion for a Governor’s Fund (more information on the CARES Act is below).
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated that getting kids back in schools will be a “theme” of the next coronavirus relief bill the Senate Republicans will be releasing. Many believe that if Congress does not approve a relief bill by August that passing a bill this fall will be hard to do with the election a few short months away.
Contact Your U.S. Senators, Ask Them to Act NOW to Help Schools Re-Open This Fall
Now is the time for your voice to be heard so that schools can get the additional funding they need to re-open this fall. All educators are urged to send the message below to their U.S. Senators in the next few days. You can personalize this message with a brief description of some of the challenges you will face this fall, and how additional funding will help.
You will find the contact information for your Senators here.
As a constituent and an educator, I am very concerned that schools will require help this fall with the increased costs of protecting students and teachers from COVID-19.
As you know, state and local budgets are being devastated by the shutdown.
We must ensure that our state and districts have the funding to keep educators on the job and to cover the cost of personal protective equipment, extra cleaning, new technologies and redesigned classrooms. The Senate can help students and schools by providing additional emergency COVID-19 funding for K-12 education.
The House passed a bill last month with funding for education, but the Senate has not drafted a bill.
It is urgent that a bill be passed—NOW—before the start of the next school year.
CARES Act Update
The relief package currently under consideration now would be in addition to the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act relief package that passed on March 27.
The CARES Act provides approximately $30.750 billion for an Education Stabilization Fund for states, school districts and institutions of higher education for costs related to coronavirus.
For K-12 elementary and secondary education, $13.5 billion is available through this grant for formula-grants to States, States must distribute 90 percent of funds to local educational agencies (based on Title I eligibility) to use for coronavirus-response activities including:
State education agencies (SEAs) must allocate 90 percent of their ESSER funds to districts, including public charter schools, in proportion to the amount of FY 2019 funds the district received under ESSA Title I. Up to 10 percent of the SEA’s award may be retained for the state department of education to address needs related to responding to coronavirus. Local leaders have the flexibility to determine how to use their ESSER funds, as long as they are in compliance with applicable federal education laws. See more on how Title II and Title IV are used here.
To see how much your state will receive under the ESSER Fund, go here.
Stay tuned, and watch for more updates in future issues of NSTA Express.
Jodi Peterson is the Assistant Executive Director of Communications, Legislative & Public Affairs for the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) and Chair of the STEM Education Coalition. Reach her via e-mail at email@example.com or via Twitter at @stemedadvocate.
The mission of NSTA is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.