Some good news from Congress, although the Senate version of the federal aid for public education will not be sufficient to provide the needed financial support for schools.
Leaders from both parties have announced that the Senate is ready to vote on a $2 trillion bi-partisan stimulus package to counter-act the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the U.S. economy, families and businesses. The package will include direct payments to individuals and families: $1,200 for individuals, $2,400 for married couples, plus an additional $500 for each child under age 17, with a phase out as incomes increase. It will also include $500 billion for hard-hit industries, another $350 billion for small business loans, $250 billion for increased unemployment relief, and $100 billion for hospitals and health systems.
Below we’ve provided some of the highlights of the provisions of the stimulus package impacting schools, child care, child nutrition and (general) unemployment aid. Please keep in mind we are still reviewing the details of the massive bill, and will provide more information as it becomes available. After a vote in the Senate, the bill will still need to be approved by the House.
The stimulus bill provides nearly $31 billion in emergency education funding, with $13.5 billion of that going towards formula grants for elementary and secondary education. $14 billion of this funding will be provided to higher education. According to reports, about 90% of the funding for elementary and secondary schools will be distributed to local educational agencies (LEAs) to help them plan and coordinate for long-term school closures, including the purchase of educational technology for online learning.
The $31 billion also includes $3 billion for Governors to provide discretionary emergency support grants to LEAs that have been hit particularly hard by COVID-19. This funding would go towards supporting the continued provision of educational services and ongoing operations. Elementary and secondary schools, as well as institutes of higher learning, would be eligible for this emergency support.
The bill also includes $50 million for the Institute of Museum and Library Services, for them to expand digital network access in areas of the country where such access is limited. Eligible uses of the funding include the purchase of internet-enabled devices and the provision of technical support in response to school service disruptions.
The total amount of education funding provided in the stimulus bill was ultimately a point of compromise between the Senate and the House. The Senate’s previous proposal included roughly $20 billion in education funding while the House had been calling for $50 billion to help K-12 schools and another $10 billion for institutes of higher learning.
Child Care & Early Learning
The deal includes $3.5 billion for the Child Care Development Block Grant to allow child care programs to maintain critical operations, including emergency staffing needs and ensuring child care access to first responder sand health care workers. The bill also provides $750 million to help Head Start meet emergency staffing needs.
The bill includes $8.8 billion in additional funding for Child Nutrition Programs to ensure children continue to receive meals during school closures.
The stimulus bill includes both an increase in the benefits unemployed workers will receive and an expansion of who is eligible for such benefits. Specifically, the deal provides that, on top of regular state unemployment benefits, individuals will receive an additional $600 per week, for up to four months. In addition, on top of the 26 weeks of benefits under California law, the bill would add an additional 13 weeks of extended benefits, fully covered by the federal government, for a total of 39 weeks. This would cover workers through the end of 2020. The bill also expands unemployment benefits to gig workers, independent contractors, and self-employed individuals, who do not traditionally qualify for such benefits, as well as furloughed employees, allowing them to stay on their company benefit plans and also collect unemployment.
We hope you are staying safe during these challenging times, and appreciate all you are doing to continue to serve our students.
Jack & Caitlin