Legislative Update: New Information and Resources to Safely Reopen Schools

This week new information was shared about safely reopening schools, resources to best support students during this time and guidance on the newest stimulus funds. Read below to learn more about the latest details provided by the Administration. 

Administration Announces New Actions to Support Schools and Students

On Wednesday President Joe Biden announced that $81 billion from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) have been released to all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to be used as aid in getting students safely back to school for in-person learning and responding to the academic, social, emotional and mental health needs of students. Specific state allocations from this first round of funds can be found here

ED Launches Summer Learning and Enrichment Collaborative

During Thursday’s National Safe School Reopening Summit, hosted by the U.S. Department of Education (ED), U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona announced the new Summer Learning and Enrichment Collaborative. The Collaborative will launch in April 2021 in partnership with the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association (NGA). It will operate as a learning community that will bring stakeholders together to develop plans for high-quality and evidence-based summer learning and enrichment programs. 

Secretary Cardona also encouraged states to use ARP funds to develop summer programs that address the instructional and extracurricular time students lost due to the pandemic, particularly for underserved communities. The Collaborative is intended to build capacity for states and districts to use the ARP’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds for these programs.  

ED Provides Guidance on Stimulus Higher Education Funding

ED shared new guidance for uses of funds under the ARP’s Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) grant program. ED changed the requirement from the previous stimulus package, the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA), that had required HEERF dollars be used for costs incurred on or after December 27, 2020. There is also additional information from ED about how “lost revenue” can be calculated, as well as an expanded Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for the Public and Private Nonprofit Institution Grants and Proprietary Institution Grant Funds for Students. 

The Notice of Interpretation can be found here, Lost Revenue FAQs here and updates to existing FAQs here.

ED Announces Expanded SNAP Benefits 

ED shared that postsecondary institutions are now able to make outreach to students who meet the temporarily increased eligibility criteria for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). ED’s Office of Federal Student Aid will also begin direct outreach efforts to notify students about the temporary changes. Now, SNAP eligibility includes students who either are eligible to participate in state or federal work study during the regular academic year or have an expected family contribution of 0 in the current academic year. This will be in effect until 30 days after the pandemic public health emergency is lifted. Additional information can be found here

Meredith Hills, Senior Associate for Federal Policy

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