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New Senate bill tackles education and child care needs resulting from COVID-19

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New Senate bill tackles education and child care needs resulting from COVID-19

As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb along with unemployment claims, pressure has continued to build for the Senate to take up another COVID-19 relief and response bill.  Last week, the White House and the Secretary of Education mounted a public relations campaign calling for all local schools to physically reopen and admit students for the 2020-2021 school year. Increased costs for safety protocols and the growing need to address inequities in the education system which existed even before the pandemic coupled with projected state and local education funding cuts, further point to the need for a sizable federal investment in education in the next COVID-19 relief bill.

Late last month, Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray rose to that challenge by introducing the Coronavirus Child Care and Education Relief Act (S. 4112) with 18 Democrat co-sponsors. The measure would build on the educational investments from the CARES Act with almost $430 billion in additional funding for child abuse and neglect prevention, child care, K-12 education, post-secondary education, and workforce development.

While the bill does not include additional funding set aside for 21st Century Community Learning Centers, it does build on the language in the CARES Act allowing local school districts to support afterschool programs for students and families. Specifically, the bill allows school districts to meet the social, emotional, and academic needs of students and educators by, in part, supporting access to afterschool programs; and suggests districts coordinate with afterschool programs in planning, coordinating, and implementing activities during long-term and short-term school closures and staggered school schedules.

Among the provisions in the bill are:

  • Child Care: This bill would provide $50 billion in grant funding to child care providers to stabilize the child care sector and support providers to safely reopen and operate. Administered through the existing Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), grants would be available to licensed, regulated, or registered child care providers (including provides of school-age afterschool programs)  that are currently open or temporarily closed due to COVID-19. Grants would enable child care providers to meet their heightened costs, backfill limited revenue due to COVID-19, and provide tuition relief to working families. Additionally, the bill would enable childcare providers to continue to pay staff wages and benefits during periods of closure or reduced enrollment, and to purchase necessary supplies to keep children and staff safe.
  • Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment: The Coronavirus Child Care and Education Relief Act provides $1.5 billion for child abuse prevention through the CAPTA. The bill includes $500 million for CAPTA’s State grants to provide necessary supports to child welfare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic to prevent, investigate, and treat child abuse and neglect, including by purchasing personal protective equipment and other sanitation supplies. Additionally, the bill invests $1 billion in CAPTA’s community-based child abuse and neglect prevention programs to provide vital community-based supports and services to strengthen families during the pandemic
  • Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund (GEER): The bill provides over $33 billion to governors to support educational programs significantly impacted by COVID-19. Governors may also use funds to support early childhood education programs, including State pre-K programs, in order to ensure young children continue to receive care and services during the pandemic.
  • Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSERF): The bill makes a new investment of $175 billion in funding to State educational agencies and school districts, allocated based on their share of Title I-A grants for FY19 under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Funds can also be used to support and improve distance education, provide afterschool programs, and address students’ academic, social, and emotional needs during the pandemic. In addition, school districts must set aside at least 20 percent of their funds to measure and address learning loss among students due to the school closures this past spring.
  • Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF): The bill makes a new investment of more than $132 billion to students and institutions of higher education. This critical support would be provided both for emergency financial aid grants to students for expenses like food, housing, child care, and technology supplies, and to colleges to confront the increased costs and financial pressures they face during the COVID-19 pandemic and the current economic downturn.
  • State and Local Education Budgets: The Education Stabilization Fund also protects all education investments by enacting a strong “maintenance of effort” (MOE) requirement for both K-12 and higher education. The bill establishes that, in return for the substantial federal investment of $345 billion in education stabilization, states must provide an assurance they will not cut their own education spending for three years.
    • The bill also provides funding for the Migrant Education Program and McKinney-Vento Homeless and Runaway Youth Act; almost $12 billion in funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA); $4 billion to schools through Federal Communication Commission’s E-Rate program; $250 million to boost all TRIO programs; $1 billion to increase access to adult education and literacy programs to help individuals attain the basic skills necessary for economic self-sufficiency. With regard to Perkins Career and Technical Education, the bill includes $1 billion to support state grants for career and technical education programs and activities.

A full summary of the bill can be found here.

While the Coronavirus Child Care and Education Relief Act lacks official bipartisan support, it is an important marker bill for consideration as the Senate works on a new comprehensive COVID-19 relief bill this month. Whether by phone or email, now is the perfect time to spend a few minutes reaching out to your Senators to share the challenges ahead for students, families, and afterschool programs when school resumes in the late summer and early fall. Share the impact of virtual and in-person programs on students and families; the successes, and also the challenges around sanitation and safety, local funding shortages, and the uncertainties ahead. Your elected officials at all levels – local and state as well – want to know how your students and families are doing, how the program is fairing, and what they can do to ensure students are supported by afterschool and summer in the fall. Check out our action alert tool here for a template and then be sure to add your own experiences.

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