Legislative Update: New Stimulus Bill Signed into Law and Update to Appropriations


Legislative Update: New Stimulus Bill Signed into Law and Update to Appropriations

This week, a new major stimulus package was signed into law. Read below to learn more about what this bill includes, a change to the upcoming appropriations process and new resources on COVID-19 vaccinations for school staff. 
President Signs New Stimulus Bill into Law
On Thursday President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act of 2021 (H.R. 1319) into law, following the House passing of this bill on Wednesday and the Senate vote at the end of last week. This $1.9 trillion stimulus bill was passed through a reconciliation process, and allocates $170 billion for an Education Stabilization Fund that includes:

  • $127.775 billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund
    From this fund, states are required to put 5% to respond to learning loss, 1% must go to evidence-based summer enrichment programs and 1% must go to evidence-based afterschool programs. Local education agencies are required to designate 20% of the funding they receive to respond to learning loss and address student needs. The remaining funding is authorized for various federal education policies including activities under the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V);
  • $39.585 billion for the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund
    This funding is allocated based on a formula that takes Pell Grant- eligible enrolled students into account. $3 billion is designated for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) and minority serving institutions (MSIs). All institutions of higher education must put at least 50% of the funds received to financial aid for students. This bill also amends a piece of the Higher Education Act (HEA) commonly referred to as the “90/10 rule.” Under HEA, proprietary institutions can not receive more than 90% of revenue from Title IV of HEA. Through this new bill, the 90% will count all forms of federal financial aid (including veterans’ benefits from the GI Bill). The rulemaking process for this change will begin in October 2021, and the final update will go into effect in January 2023.
  • $2.75 billion for Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools
    Governors will receive this funding and must allocate it to private schools that serve a significant percentage of low-income students. 

The bill also includes $7.27 billion for an Emergency Connectivity Fund through the E-rate program available through September 2030 for schools and libraries to purchase internet connectivity and technological devices. Another significant investment is $362.05 billion for a Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund. 
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) shared estimates of the amount of funding states and institutions of higher education can expect to receive through the Education Stabilization Fund. Additional information on the ARP legislation, including summaries, can be found here
House Appropriations Committee Restores a Version of Earmarks
Written by Michael Matthews, Government Relations Manager, Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE). Original post can be found here
At the end of February, House Appropriations Chairwoman Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) announced that the House would restore earmarks, albeit a more transparent and limited version, ending a decade-long prohibition. An earmark is a provision that is inserted into an appropriations bill that gives policymakers the power to direct specific funds to their district to pay for special projects, most typically infrastructure projects.
Under the new proposal, earmarks are capped at 1% of all discretionary spending, which is currently around $1.4 trillion. Aside from the 1% cap, there are other restrictions put in place to increase transparency and oversight. These include:

  • Each House member is limited to a maximum of 10 requests;
  • All requests and explanations will be public;
  • For-profit institutions are ineligible;
  • Members must provide proof that the community supports the project; and 
  • Members have to certify that they nor their family have financial interest in the project.

Although the House Democrats have decided to bring back earmarks, it is not yet a done deal. The Senate, although currently debating the merits of the proposal, has not yet decided how to proceed, if at all. Further complicating the process is the fact that Republicans in both chambers are barred by party rules from participating with earmarks. Although the process remains complicated, there are bipartisan talks currently taking place between congressional leaders, and there seems to be sentiment on both sides of the aisle in deal making.
One thing remains clear: If brought back, education stands to benefit. Infrastructure aside, higher education was historically one of the larger recipients of earmarked funds, having received nearly $2 billion in Fiscal Year 2010 for 875 institutions. These funds have been largely used to support academic research, but could be utilized for other projects and programs, including the start of new programs, acquisition of technology for distance learning, commercialization of intellectual property, or other pursuits. As for K-12, the funding could be used, and has been previously, for various pursuits ranging from after school programs to school construction. Given the demand for resources created by the pandemic, schools could use these funds for things like upgraded HVAC systems, extended learning programs that extend beyond the regular school day, and other needs. 
CDC Shares New Resources on Vaccinations for School Staff
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention published two new resources for schools regarding COVID-19 (coronavirus) vaccinations: 

Meredith Hills, Senior Associate for Federal Policy