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Federal Policy Update: House passes 21st CCLC Coronavirus Relief Act

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Federal Policy Update: House passes 21st CCLC Coronavirus Relief Act

Just after noon on Sep. 16, the House of Representatives unanimously approved HR 8162, the bipartisan 21st Century Community Learning Centers Coronavirus Relief Act of 2020. The legislation provides much needed flexibility for the current 2020-2021 school year, allowing local afterschool programs funded by the Nita M. Lowey 21st CCLC program to help parents return to the workforce and help children continue their learning in an academically supportive environment, including the hours when schools are operating virtually and not offering classes in-person. The Afterschool Alliance is grateful to the bill’s original co-sponsors, U.S. Representative Susan Wild (D-PA) along with Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Dwight Evans (D-PA), and Don Young (R-AK) and ten additional co-sponsors for their leadership in advancing this legislation which we hope will further encourage the U.S. Department of Education to expedite their waiver process allowing 21st CCLC programs to expand access to supervised learning for students this school year during the COVID-19 emergency.  

As a result of the health challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, many school districts will provide academic instruction through remote or hybrid learning models for part or all of the 2020-2021 school year. Estimates suggest that this fall, nearly 24 million workers with children between the ages of 6 and 14 will have no at-home child care option. This new bipartisan legislation allows flexibility in 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant funded programs to expand their in-person or virtual operations to allow programming during traditional school hours when school is not occurring physically in-person but rather operating virtually or in a hybrid scenario.  The legislation only applies to the 2020-2021 school year. It would leverage existing partnerships between schools, community-based organizations, nonprofits, local government, and other afterschool providers to create options for families and cultivate environments in which K-12 students can receive additional academic support and safe and affordable supervised learning during  virtual school days, and working parents can return to and stay in the workforce.

The bipartisan legislation is endorsed by the Afterschool Alliance, After-School All-Stars, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Classroom, Inc., Girls, Inc., National Association of Elementary School Principals, Forum for Youth Investment, YMCA of the USA, and National AfterSchool Association. Its full text as amended and passed unanimously can be found here. As part of the debate on the bill on the House floor, several members of Congress spoke out in support of the bill:

  • Rep. Wild (D-PA) stated “These Learning Centers, which typically operate out of Boy and Girls Clubs, YMCAs, schools, and other partners, have existing trusted partnerships with the school districts they serve. The flexibility expressed in my legislation will help school districts leverage these partnerships to create options for families and to cultivate environments in which K-12 students could receive additional academic support, school-age children could receive safe care during the workday, school day, and working parents will be able to return to and stay in the workforce.”
  • Rep. Van Drew (R-NJ) added that the legislation “expresses Congress’ support for the Department of Education to grant flexibilities for 21st CCLC. With these new flexibilities, 21st CCLCs will be able to provide programming during regular school hours and offer in-person care to students who cannot be in school throughout the regular day. Further, 21st CCLCs will be able to serve students in person or virtually in order to better accommodate the various needs of the families during the year.”
  • Rep, Lee (D-NV): The bill “will provide additional academic support for K-12 students by offering access to safe, supervised learning during the day to take some weight off the shoulders of working parents. This will be done by bringing together schools, community organizations, nonprofits, local government and afterschool providers to expand access to academic resources and create flexibility for families.
  • Rep. Cicilline (D-RI): “Schools throughout Rhode Island and all across America have been forced to close their doors, some for the rest of the year. This trend means that high-quality afterschool and summer programs will be even more necessary to provide young people with a safe and enriching place to learn and grow. We have an obligation to ensure these programs have the resources and flexibility needed to meet the needs of America’s children.

The bill’s adoption by the House comes as the U. S. Department of Education works to provide 21st CCLC flexibility to local programs through a waiver process that will allow state education agencies to grant local 21st CCLC programs the flexibility to support students during the virtual school day. The bill and the waivers work together in providing the flexibility needed to give parents and students the support they need during this challenging school year. The unanimous support for the legislation and 21st CCLC flexibility also highlights the need for additional 21st CCLC funding so programs can safely serve students during longer program hours. The Afterschool Alliance and a coalition of organizations is calling for at least $6.2 billion in supplemental funding for 21st CCLC in the next COVID-19 relief package.  These additional funds will help programs implement longer hours, reduce student/staff ratios, obtain alternate spaces as needed, and implement additional cleaning safety measures. Programs and families recognize this funding as essential, as programs strive to meet students’ needs as parents return to work. In the weeks ahead we now look to the U.S. Senate to support the legislation and 21st CCLC flexibility as well as funding.

You can use your voice and experience to share the need for additional afterschool program support including space, the need for more time and more staff, the successes, and also the challenges around sanitation and safety, local funding shortages, and the uncertainties ahead. Your elected officials at all levels want to know how your students and families are doing, how the program is fairing, and what they can do to ensure afterschool programs can support students this fall. Check out our action alert tool here for a template and be sure to add your own experiences!

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