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Only 5% of money for K-12 schools in COVID package to be spent in FY2021 - should relief funding be used this year for reopening schools?
Should COVID relief funding for schools be used this year for school reopenings?
By Eric Revell, Countable News
What’s the story?
- Democrats are moving toward the final passage of their $1.9 trillion coronavirus (COVID-19) relief package, known as the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (H.R. 1319), on Wednesday along party-lines ― but the plan has faced criticism from Republicans for a slow rollout of funding that’s intended to help schools reopen for in-person instruction.
- While funding for provisions such as stimulus payments is expected to be used within the next month, only about 5% of funding allocated for elementary and secondary schools will be used before fiscal year 2021 concludes at the end of September.
- The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analyzed the legislation when its initial version passed the House, which included $128.5 billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund. While all of that funding would be available during fiscal year 2021, only $6.4 billion would be spent in FY2021, followed by $32.1 billion in FY2022, another $32.1 billion in FY2023, $25.7 billion in FY2024, $19.2 billion in FY2025, $8.9 billion in FY2026, $2.5 billion in FY2027, and $1.2 billion in FY2028.
- The CBO explained that the slow spend of new money provided by Democrats’ bill is because most of the funding Congress provided schools in bipartisan COVID-19 relief bills that were enacted last year still hasn’t been spent:
“The Congress previously provided nearly $31 billion for education stabilization in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, enacted on March 27, 2020, and another $82 billion for this purpose in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, enacted on December 27, 2020. Because most of those funds remain to be spent, CBO anticipates that the bulk of funds provided in the reconciliation recommendations would occur after 2021.”
- The Senate-passed version of the package slightly reduced the amount of funding provided to the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund to $122.7 billion, and while it also required states to subgrant funding to local educational agencies within 60 days of receiving the funds, it didn’t make any changes to require that those funds be spent in 2021 on school reopenings.
What they’re saying
- Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) touted the usefulness of funding within the American Rescue Plan Act for reopening schools in a speech on the floor ahead of its passage by the Senate last weekend:
“For Americans who doubted that the government can help them in this time of crisis, you’ll be getting direct checks, your schools will receive assistance to reopen quickly and safely, your local businesses will get another lifeline, and the day when you receive the vaccine will be a lot sooner. The American Rescue Plan will go down as one of the most sweeping federal recovery efforts in history. It’s never easy to pass legislation as momentous as this. But it will all, and soon, be worth it.”
- In floor remarks, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) criticized the rollout of funding for school reopenings, saying:
“Remember, we’re almost to the one-year anniversary of a leading House Democrat admitting they see this whole crisis as ‘a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision.’ So, sorry to all the American families who’ve just been hoping to get their jobs back, their schools back, and their lives back. Democrats are more interested in some restructuring. That’s why only 1% of this huge package goes directly to vaccinations. That’s why it proposes another 12-digit sum of federal funding for K-12 schools, even though science tells us schools can be made safe right now. About 95% of that funding won’t even go out this fiscal year.”
- Should the $1 Trillion in Unspent COVID Funding Be Disbursed Before the $1.9 Trillion Bill is Enacted? (3/8/21)
- Should Schools Reopen for In-Person Learning? (3/2/21)
(Photo Credit: iStock.com / FatCamera)
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