Legislative Update: Congress and Administration Respond to COVID-19


Legislative Update: Congress and Administration Respond to COVID-19

In response to COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Congress and the administration have been taking measures to support the country, including those impacted by the disruption in education. Read below to learn more about what is being done for students and teachers, as well as where to find additional resources. 
U.S. Department of Education Provides Coronavirus Resources 
The U.S. Department of Education added a page to its website with Coronavirus resources and updates for elementary and secondary schools and institutions of higher education. You can access this information at www.ed.gov/coronavirus. The page will be continuously updated by the Department.     
Congress Moves Forward with Coronavirus Response Bill
On Wednesday, the Senate passed an emergency aid package in response to the Coronavirus crisis. This bill, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201), was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives early on Saturday morning. The multi-billion aid package provides economic relief measures, including:

  • Emergency paid leave and benefits; 
  • Enhanced Unemployment Insurance; 
  • Coverage of, and expanded access to, Coronavirus testing; and
  • Emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for children who would receive free or reduced-price meals if schools were open.

The bill was then sent to the administration and signed into law. The full bill can be found here and a summary can be found here
President Trump Announces Hold on Federal Student Loan Interest

During a press conference about the federal response to Coronavirus on Friday, President Donald Trump announced  that interest on federal student loans would be eliminated “until further notice.” This will affect over 42 million Americans who owe more than $1.5 trillion in outstanding federal student loans.The U.S. Department of Education is currently working to further develop this plan and issue guidance on what this means for loan recipients and servicers.
On Tuesday, the Administration requested an additional $30 million from Congress to help support the Office of Federal Student Aid in response to the growing loan servicer costs as a result of the interest elimination. 
Congress Proposes Bill to Support Students During Coronavirus Crisis
Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP)- with support from Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA), Chair of the House Committee on Education and Labor- proposed the Supporting Students in Response to the Coronavirus Act. This bill is intended to support students, teachers and school staff as school closures continue due to Coronavirus. Early childhood programs, K-12 schools and institutions of higher education are all included in this legislation in a number of ways. Some of the measures in this proposal include: 

  • Resources to support schools in implementing and sustaining plans during school closures;  
  • Emergency financial aid for postsecondary students needing food, housing and child care; and
  • Relief for students from paying back student loans during semesters that have been disrupted.  

The full bill text can be found here and a summary can be found here.
Meredith Hills, Policy Associate and Samuel Dunietz, Senior Associate for Federal Policy