Action Alert – Federal COVID Relief Bill

Action Alert – Federal COVID Relief Bill

Please contact your Members of Congress and urge them to reinstate the following
provisions into the final legislation for the COVID-19 recovery package that is being
negotiated. As of December 18, Congressional leaders are continuing negotiations and
reportedly omitted these provisions that are priorities for our school boards and state
• It is urgent that funding be dedicated to online learning for broadband connectivity and hardware for students and that it be administered through the E-Rate program for schools and libraries, as an estimated 16 million students are impacted by the homework gap. At least $12 billion just for short-term relief is required; but, any funding, including the $3 billion originally being proposed in the latest legislation, will help begin to narrow this issue for many students lacking adequate access to the internet;
• An extension of time for states and local governments to utilize funds from the CARES
Act Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) that is administered by the U.S. Department of the
Treasury. This measure would allow school districts that are subrecipients of CRF funds
the additional time needed to complete services, thereby changing the date by which
funding must be utilized from December 30, 2020 to December 30, 2021; and,
• An extension of the COVID-19 employee leave provisions that were made available
through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) for emergency sick leave
and emergency family and medical leave.

It is likely that Congress will combine the recovery package with a final bill for Fiscal Year 2021 appropriations for the U.S. Department of Education and other federal agencies. Currently, there is no final version of legislative text, or accompanying bill number, for the recovery package.
What negotiators agreed upon earlier are the provisions for education stabilization funding.

Please see the additional background information below, after the talking points.

Your representatives can be contacted here:
Talking Points
• On behalf of the ____________ [state school boards association], I
appreciate your efforts to negotiate the next COVID-19 recovery package that will impact our children, school districts, and community.
• It is my understanding that some of the provisions negotiated earlier are being omitted –specifically for online learning, an extension of time to utilize resources from the CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF), and an extension of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) emergency sick leave and emergency family and medical leave for employees. Each of these areas is a priority for our school districts. Therefore, I am urging you to reinstate these provisions in the final legislation for this COVID-19 recovery package.
• Many students are unable to access classes online during this pandemic because they lack access to broadband and to laptops and other devices needed to receive online instruction.

COVID-19 has exacerbated this problem, known as the homework gap. Therefore, I am
urging you to reinstate the provisions for online learning, that include $3 billion for an
Emergency Educational Connectivity Fund to be administered through the E-Rate
program, and $200 million for the Institute of Museum and Library Services to buy
internet-connected devices for underserved and rural communities. It is estimated that at least $12 billion is needed, but the infusion of these $3 billion in funds now will help
alleviate some of the problems.

• Some school districts are subrecipients of CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF)
administered by the U.S. Treasury, that has imposed the December 30, 2020 date by
which all funds must be utilized. This is not feasible for school districts, nor for the states and local governments that are also recipients, as services being provided through the CRF are not complete. Senators Murkowski and Hassan have introduced bipartisan legislation (S. 4898) to extend the date — to December 30, 2021 — by which Coronavirus ded. The inclusion of this legislation — to extend the date for
CRF expenditures to December 30, 2021 — in this recovery package is necessary, and
will allow our districts and their respective county/ municipal government(s) to carefully plan resources in a more efficient manner, to help protect lives and implement proper safeguards against COVID-19.
• An extension of the COVID-related employee leave provisions that were made available through the earlier Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) for emergency sick leave and emergency family and medical leave is also needed in this recovery package. Please reinstate these provisions that are beneficial to our school districts.

Collectively, school districts are the largest employer in this nation.
• While these negotiations for the next COVID-19 recovery package have not addressed all of the priorities needed by our school districts, the provisions proposed for education stabilization funding will help address a number of needs, such as targeted investments in special education and in resources for students who are English Learners, sustaining teachers and other staff, sanitizing and building safety, and social emotional supports for students. We appreciate this provision that will help continue recovery efforts for our public schoolchildren and districts.
• Again, I urge your strong support to address these outstanding provisions within this next emergency supplemental for COVID-19 recovery.

COVID-19 Recovery Package – Background Information
Additional details about how the $82 billion in education stabilization funding would be
allocated are below. This portion of the recovery package was announced earlier this week.
Education Stabilization Fund – The recovery package would provide a total of $82 billion for an Education Stabilization Fund for both K-12 and higher education, to be available through September 31, 2021. Of this amount, up to one-half percent would be reserved for outlying areas and one-half percent for Bureau of Indian Affairs schools, for a total of $820 million. The remaining amount allocated for K-12 would be divided as follows:
Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) – $53.7 billion
for public K-12 education, with funding based on the Title I formula. Funding would not
be conditioned on whether schools provide in-person education (as earlier proposals from the Senate HEALS Act did), and could be used for the same educational services/
programs allowed under the CARES Act.
Governors Fund (GEER) – would provide $7.5 billion for the Governors Emergency
Education Relief Fund, of which $2.5 billion would be set aside for private schools,
based on the percentage of private school students in the state. The governors’ funding
could be used for school districts, colleges, childcare, or other education providers with
the greatest need.
Maintenance of Effort – States must maintain their funding for K-12 and higher
education (excluding capital projects) in FY 2021 and FY 2022 at least at the average of
the three previous fiscal years. However, states could apply for a waiver if they have
“experienced a precipitous decline in financial resources,” as allowed under ESSA.

Congressional leaders have stated that this is probably not the last recovery package, and that legislation for state and local aid and liability protections could be negotiated with President-elect Joe Biden’s administration next year.

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