Over the past eight months Congress has taken action to respond to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, with varying results. This included passing stimulus packages, as well as introducing a number of bills that were never passed- or at times even brought to vote. Advance CTE will recap what has gone on in Congress regarding Coronavirus response and recovery in a new blog series. Check back next week for part two!
In March, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act (H.R.748). The $2.2 trillion stimulus package provided comprehensive economic relief and resources as a result of COVID-19 (Coronavirus), including funding and flexibilities for education and workforce development programs. The CARES Act was the last stimulus package that was passed by Congress and signed into law.
Education Stabilization Fund
The CARES Act authorized $30.75 billion for the Education Stabilization Fund, which provided funding to states, school districts and institutions of higher education for costs related to Coronavirus. The breakdown of funds is as follows:
- $13.5 billion for the Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief Fund (ESERF)
Money was distributed to the State Education Agency (SEA) through a formula. From there 90 percent went to Local Education Agencies (LEAs) for activities in response to Coronavirus.
- $3 billion for the Governors Emergency Relief Fund (GEERF)
Funding was distributed to states based on a formula that took population and poverty into account, and the SEA then determined which LEA received funds. The governor could also determine which higher education institution received funding, as well as designate any institution of higher education, LEA, or “education related entity” as essential for carrying out emergency education services.
- $14.25 billion for the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF)
Of this, $12.557 billion was allocated to institutions that were eligible for Tile IV funding under the Higher Education Act. $348.8 million went to the improvement of postsecondary education program, and 50 percent of that needed to be used for students. Finally, $1.046 billion went to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs).
Of the Education Stabilization Fund, one percent was allotted for competitive grants to states most affected by Coronavirus:
- Rethink K-12 Education Models Grant: This competitive grant provides funding to support states in serving their students during the pandemic through new and innovative strategies. The participating states are Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, North Carolina, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas, and award amounts range from $6 million to $20 million.
- Reimagining Workforce Preparation Grants: This competitive grant provides funding to either expand education opportunities through short-term career pathways or sector-based education and training programs, or to support local entrepreneurship through small business incubators. The participating states are Alabama, Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Michigan, Nevada, New York and Virginia.
National Emergency Education Waivers
This bill provided opportunities for the SEA, Indian tribe or LEA to request waivers of certain statutory and regulatory provisions.
Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund
SEAs could apply for emergency relief grants to be used in elementary and secondary schools.
Additional Measures in the CARES Act
- Authority for the Secretary of Education to provide waivers from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, except civil rights laws, that are necessary in response to Coronavirus;
- Temporary relief for federal student loan borrowers to defer payments, principal and interest for 6 months. This also gives flexibility to students with federal student loans that dropped out of school as a result of Coronavirus;
- Allows postsecondary students at institutions that closed because of Coronavirus to discount that semester toward their lifetime Pell eligibility;
- Continues federal work study payments to students who are no longer able to work as a result of closures;
- Flexibility for local workforce boards to use Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) funds for administrative costs (such as digital resources);
- $360 million for the Department of Labor to invest in programs to support training and services for dislocated workers, seniors, migrant farmworkers and homeless veterans; and
- Pandemic Unemployment Assistance to provide unemployment insurance for those who would not typically be covered, but cannot work as a result of Coronavirus.
Meredith Hills, Senior Associate for Federal Policy