Education News

Congress responds to educators’ calls for a COVID stimulus package that helps students and educators

Girl learning at home

By Amanda Menas

America’s public schools are the economic engines of tens of thousands of communities across the country, providing not only quality education for students, but also jobs and community-sustaining economic benefits for millions of professionals. As lawmakers pressed forward in drafting a stimulus package to address the COVID-19 crisis, it was clear they heard educators’ warning that school closures forced by the epidemic could bring terrible consequences for students, families and local economies.

Last night, the Senate by a 96-0 vote passed the $2.2 trillion relief package that includes more than $30 billion in emergency education funding. The House is expected to pass it Friday. Key provisions expand unemployment insurance for laid off workers, provide direct stimulus checks to households, and provide student loan relief.

“Our economy cannot rebound if we do not address the immediate health crisis and prioritize support for educators, students and their families. The bill is not perfect, but it does address many urgent needs of our students, educators and schools,” said NEA president Lily Eskelsen García.

Last week, Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, a good first step that helps ensure that the 20 million students who rely on school lunches won’t go hungry, and protects educators who continue to work to help students and families through this pandemic. 

NEA’s government relations team worked night and day to ensure the needs of students and educators were addressed in this bill. Thanks in part to the thousands of educators who reached out to their senators, this new legislation builds on the initial work to protect workers now, and once this is over. However, educators will not stop here. In the coming weeks, they will advocate for more funding to address the homework gap to help with distance learning, housing and food insecurity, and student loan cancelation.

Here are six of the measures NEA pushed for in this current bill before Congress:

Provides immediate stimulus checks to households

Congress will send up to $1,200 to most adults, and $500 per child depending on family income to shore up those especially in need during this crisis. Many educators and parents will benefit from this funding, which will aid in combating the inequities that are negatively impacting communities of color and other marginalized people.

Creates a fund to boost learning opportunities for students

An Education Stabilization Fund was created to help fill emerging budget gaps, get more money into schools and the potential to help states avoid laying off educators in preK-12 and higher education. This could allow public schools to continue paying hourly workers like education support professionals (ESPs), and campuses to continue paying adjunct and contingent faculty who may lose paychecks with school closures.

The inclusion in this bill of an education stabilization fund was essential, but Congress must understand that tens of billions dollars more will be needed to truly support all students, counter the learning loss happening through school closures and prevent educator layoffs. 

Cancels student loan payments for six months

Following the announcement that monthly payments would be suspended and interest rates dropped to 0 percent, the new legislation provides relief for federal student loan debt for six months. This gap will still count toward loan completion—including for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program — and provide some much-needed relief to educators and others faced with crushing debt. Individuals who receive student loan repayment assistance from their employers will also receive an income tax exclusion. While the suspension on student federal loan payments will aid many families struggling at this time, more could—and should—be done. 

Additional provisions were made related to campus-based aid, supplemental educational opportunity grants, subsidized loans, and foreign institutions. Students who are unable to complete federal work study jobs or academic semesters due to COVID-19 may be paid and receive Pell Grants where applicable.

Legislation proposed by House Democrats could further aid borrowers and eliminate debt for those with federal loans during this crisis.

Expands unemployment insurance

Education support professionals and adjunct faculty are among the many groups who will directly benefit from the bi-partisan legislation forwarded by Senator Chuck Schumer and Representative Nancy Pelosi in this stimulus package. Unemployment insurance will be significantly extended and will provide an additional thirteen weeks for laid off workers, including those who are self-employed and the maximum unemployment insurance benefit will be raised by $600. 

Prevents housing instability and homelessness

As NEA advocated, Congress provided tens of billions to help prevent greater housing insecurity during this crisis by pausing action on any foreclosures due to failure to pay mortgages and providing funds for rental assistance. Funding will be provided to help minimize the number of people living in homeless encampments, to help prevent evictions, and expand shelters to alleviate crowding and reduce health risks for both people experiencing homelessness and outreach workers. Disaster Relief Funds, and grants for tribal housing were also included in the bill.

Educators across the country see that more needs to be done to protect students and school communities from the financial and emotional impacts of COVID-19. First and foremost, direct funding in the Education Stabilization Fund should be allocated to closing the “homework gap,” which impacts between 7 and 12 million K-12 students who do not have access to WiFi hotspots, connection devices, and mobile wireless service at home. These could all be provided by an existing and successful E-rate program, but telecommunication industry lobbyists got in the way.

NEA has advocated for the Federal Communications Commission to waive E-rate regulations, and provide $2 billion to help close the gap and provide funding for those in need. Distance learning is critical for students to maintain their studies, and the lack of assistance, especially for students with disabilities and those living in rural areas, is detrimental. 

Visit NEA’s Schools and Coronavirus to learn how fellow educators are ensuring the health and safety of their students and school communities.

73 responses to “Congress responds to educators’ calls for a COVID stimulus package that helps students and educators

  1. “This gap will still count toward loan completion—including for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program — and provide some much-needed relief to educators and others faced with crushing debt.”

    From the FEDLOAN website: https://myfedloan.org/borrowers/covid
    “The time spent on the emergency administrative forbearance will not count toward your required payment count.”

    What am I missing? Is “loan completion” different from “required payment count”?

    1. Why was I dismayed that the article mentioned two democrats specifically?? My dismay quickly turned to disgust which is something I often have for NEA leadership’s political democrat strong leaning support. The two democrats came in at the 11th hours with pork and special interests holding up the relief bill. Sadly, some of those interests still made it in the final bill. Millions could have gone to those truly needing and deserving it. The dems claim to be anti-big business getting relief monies but these “needy” arts programs are similar big businesses.

  2. What they neglected to mention in regards to suspending student loan repayments is that it only applies to loans that are owned by the Department of Education. Unfortunately, most student loans were old to private entities like Navient who is only allowing a 3 month forbearance that acrues interest for most of the loans. In order to receive that forbearance, one has to call in and ask for it. But I’m sure that’s because DeVos didn’t want any of her friends to miss out on still being able to collect $$$.

  3. I agree NEA needs to give appreciation where it is due, to the republications, The Democrats tried to add and did add things that are not necessary for this cause and had nothing to do with helping during this pandemic. Also how will this stimulus affected those that are retired, while meds and the cost of other necessary things to live prices go up?

  4. Well said Beverly. I agree with you. I think that many of us a preschool teachers are regarded as babysitters and this is not just the viewpoint of the community, is pretty much the opinion of school administrators as well. I hope that with this pandemic many open their eyes of many and see that we do contribute to the education Foundation of children at early stages.

    1. Democrats need to quit playing games with our lives. Trump has done an incredible job, especially since this started at the same time as the Impeachment Hoax was going on. There is hardly a person that would have any energy left, much less somebody in their 70s. Democrats continue to show they don’t care about America with all their games.

  5. All good news; but I was disheartened to see NEA using this as a plug for 2 Democrats. I believe this was done by both parties. Over the past 40+ years I have been amazed at how blindly NEA ALWAYS supports Democrats even though my biggest raises have happened when Republicans are in office because the country’s economy is doing better. Consistently tax raises, lowering my take home pay, have come from Democrats. I think I give up enough in taxes now. Democrats need to stop coming up with more ways to spend MORE of my money and do more reallocating of the money they now get from us.

    1. You are so right Terry. I agree that the NEA mostly supports Democrats. Both parties are working very hard during this critical time. Nancy Pelosi held back for over a week in pursuing the stimulus package to go forward.

    2. Agreed. Unfortunately, tax increases are the go-to “solution”. There is a disdain for opinions other than the liberal propaganda. Many of us do not agree.

  6. I understand that education is at the fore front of this pandemic and we are still reaching out to our students (Headstart students) but this is not mentioned one time. We do teach these 3 and 4 year old children just like any other student enrolled in school. We are not a babysitting service . These children are learning to read, write and are preparing them for P-K. So I don’t understand why when education is mention HEADSTART is never mentioned. Yes, we are a federally funded program but shed some light on this program as well.

  7. I agree; there is an education gap. Canceling loan debt AND creating greater access to the internet are crucial if we seek to support those in the pipeline to become teachers, and students who need to maintain contact with teachers.

    1. I agree; there is an education gap. Canceling loan debt AND creating greater access to the internet are crucial if we seek to support those in the pipeline to become teachers, and students who need to maintain contact with teachers.

    2. Having internet and appropriate educational tools at home are critical for “homeschooling” children! School districts and telecommunications companies should be working hand in hand to provide computers and internet access to families who need assistance. I also feel that internet prices should be lowered for a period of time, for families who have lost the ability to work due to employment loss from COVID 19.

  8. If anything, more funds needs to be allocated to provide technology and internet connection to students. Many, especially in schools that receive free and reduced lunches, have students that can afford a laptop and internet. Please make sure education is not cut, especially at this crucial time when we need all the resources at our disposal to continue to provide quality education.

    1. Rural areas of the United States have very slow internet
      Northeast Nebraska has one of the slowest internet speed ours constantly buffers.

      1. yes rural areas do have slow or no internet at all so how do we meet the needs of those of us that live in rural areas? and some of us live a while drive from town.

      2. This is definitely an issue in rural Arkansas. We we live, only satellite internet is available. I’m having to provide online instruction for 6 community college classes at the same time my kids are trying to do their daily AMI work. They need to Zoom with their teachers while I need to Zoom with my students. Many of my college students need better internet access, too. I’m emailing them daily trying to find ways to solve their problems and keep them current with their coursework.

    2. Even if some students have phones to do their work, their parents might be laid off, so keeping up with cell phone bills will be challenging for several families. Internet access is sometimes limited if it is an option at all.

    3. If anything, more funds needs to be allocated to provide technology and internet connection to students. Many, especially in schools that receive free and reduced lunches, have students that can afford a laptop and internet. Please make sure education is not cut, especially at this crucial time when we need all the resources at our disposal to continue to provide quality education.

  9. History shows how stories and written accounts helped us to understand events that were unbelievably horrific and those that gave us the reason to appreciate humanity. Public education continues that path of helping all people understand, learn, and have hope. Our Public Schools should never take a second seat to other interests again. It should be built up, become diverse enough to provide students with the skill sets to think and do, and not discriminate against any income level.

  10. Our students of today are the future of tomorrow. We need to invest in our future frontline, as well as todays. Please allocate much needed funding to our country’s most important resource, our students.

    1. Our students of today are the future of tomorrow. We need to invest in our future frontline, as well as todays. Please allocate much needed funding to our country’s most important resource, our students.

  11. The concerns for students with internet access are real but there are also teachers who will be expected to deliver virtual instruction who do not have reliable internet access either. This is the case for even some teachers in western Maryland including my sister-in-law. Anything that can be done to facilitate online learning for both the students and the teachers should be pursued.

  12. Please listen to your principals and teachers so that all students and their families can be helped. We must help those in need during these stressful times. Stress can lead to violence. Please help to protect everyone, not just the wealthy.

    1. help those in need during these stressful times.
      Stress can lead to violence. Please help to protect everyone, not just the wealthy.
      Please listen to your principals and teachers so that all students and their families can be helped.

    2. I am currently trying to teach students online. Many parents are also working from and with only device and one phone makes it really difficult for everyone to participate in their daily work. I talked to a mother who said she handles conference calls over the phone and does required paperwork on the computer which lives no room for educational time online for all her three children. She said she is finding it difficult to find the balance. Please find the funds so I can Zoom with all my students. Internet, hotspots, and connections are critical and companies need to come on board to help facilitate them for free and everyone that is connected to make it work should do so without hesitation. We are in time of crisis worldwide- nothing is guaranteed so us playing our part is vital to our community and future.

  13. First and foremost, direct funding in the Education Stabilization Fund should be allocated to closing the “homework gap,” which impacts between 7 and 12 million K-12 students who do not have access to WiFi hotspots, connection devices, and mobile wireless service at home. These could all be provided by an existing and successful E-rate program, but

    1. I am also aware of how many families do not have internet access, this is a need for students to learn and stay connected with teachers and schools.

  14. We need to provide as much support as possible for education with financial support for families providing an environment at home in which technology can be used to continue the educational process.

    1. Public education is not the place to cut funds. We need money to educate our children, and to also feed them.

  15. Please ensure that we find education in this new technological environment. Without educators to guide the process, our parents will be lost and our children disheartened. During this dark and critical time in our nation’s history, we will want to look back and say we did the right thing to provide children with the instruction and resources that they need to have some sort of normalcy and consolation. Please don’t take this one comfort away!

  16. All anyone does is pretend education was so wonderful before the Trump administration. I have been teaching for over 20 years and this is the first administration that didn’t tie funding to some terrible agenda such as No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. These were blackmailing tactics to secure that the federal government was intertwined in public schools. Before NCLB, none of this existed and with our current administration no blackmailing tactic has been used. There is so much wrong with education but to act as if it started with our current administration proves how much media influences your beliefs.

  17. It is critical to maintain staffing for our public school during isolation with pay. Act humanly please! Our children depend on our public educators and the public education system for an education and title 1 funds.

  18. It is critical to maintain staffing for our public schools so that our children may return to the one secure site and persons with whom they are familiar within their community. Too many rely on Title One for their education and primary food source. Funding inessential to sustain healthy life during the pandemic.
    It is the Educational Support personnel who nurture, and educate our children, as well as support the teacher’s educational plan. Retaining them with pay while isolation continues is essential for their well being which directly affects our schools well being.
    Act humanity, please!!!!!!!!!

    1. No political agenda is more important than the health, well-being and education of the children of our nation. American politicians must act their conscience as often as needed on behalf of those who are the future of our country. It is our most precious and solemn obligation

    2. As an ESP and someone who voluntarily got certified as a behavior technician to provide trained special education supports, I have already seen that paraprofessional in my school are not being utilized in the online educational activity. It feels like I have been amputated. I know that when school is open we are relied upon and called to teach and emotionally support students. What’s going on here? There is a gap between teachers and ESP’s I’m seeing and it really concerns me. We are not being utilized. Why aren’t we included in providing online enrichment? And does that mean that there is an unspoken policy under which we will be the ones to lose pay or our jobs? I would like to know who to connect with nationally to begin a plan of action to address this gap and related concerns. We are all in this together aren’t we?

  19. Please this not the time for politics. We have to be united. Americans first and GOP and Dem doesn’t matter to those who have died or the families who are suffering. Unite now. T here will be plenty of time to campaign and fight for our causes. A crisiscis not the time to promote a agendas. It’s the moment to learn what we can do better, show the community that they come first not ideology or personal aspirations. Once the crisis is over is our goodwill that will persuade others to support our initiatives. God Bless you all. Be safe.

  20. All that Congress is doing to help public education during COVID-19 masks Trump’s budget which continues to cut education funding. Keep in mind that Trump’s choice program continues to push for vouchers and Charter Schools.

    1. We need to provide as much support as possible for education with financial support for families providing an environment at home in which technology can be used to continue the educational process.

      1. My granddaughter did not have $6-7,000 quoted to bring internet to her house. She discovered that each Massachusetts town has specified a provider to install internet to everyone. When she called Spectrum they were shocked that she knew that to be true & that they could not rip her off. With the family digging and installing 900 feet of cable up her drive, the cable company installer had her up & running for about $700.
        Wonder if towns in other states have that provision? And of course, we need to inform families so they can get past the false baloney when they call to request the service.

    2. Please this not the time for politics. We have to be united. Americans first and GOP and Dem doesn’t matter to those who have died or the families who are suffering. Unite now. T here will be plenty of time to campaign and fight for our causes. A crisiscis not the time to promote a agendas. It’s the moment to learn what we can do better, show the community that they come first not ideology or personal aspirations. Once the crisis is over is our goodwill that will persuade others to support our initiatives. God Bless you all. Be safe.

    3. Public education is not a place to cut funds, our students are financially in need.
      Teachers need the tools they need to educate our kids. Our school needs the money to access technology and tools to support our students.

  21. Will or could we add relief for childcare/preschool centers to our requests? Especially for those centers already in existence whether they be public or private.

  22. I can see how technological companies would like to take advantage of this situation , so handing sealed packages to each child is the remedy. These can be dropped off at their school where upon being sprayed with hydrogen peroxide they can be decontaminated. This is cheaper than giving out chrome books , plus teachers can give their students work where they left off. This would also serve as moral support when they see their teachers face. As a teacher i know best what my students need. Many of them do not even have cable this would put an extra burden on parents to provide cable. Some times the good old fashion way works!!!

    1. Please add on to the response sent by Edwin Quiles March 27, 2020 at 10:30 am Teachers should be the ones to hand out these packages as a team since some teachers’ immune system are compromised. I apologize for this inconvenience stress full times make people forget. Thank you be safe.

  23. NEA, There needs to be a concerted effort from all educators and others throughout the country to contact their congressmen and 2 senators that there must be needed funds to supply purchase electronics for students that cannot afford it.Thanks, Wayne Alt,Life-long NEA member

  24. They need to add private student loans also. I did not qualify for federal loans, so I had to got a private loan so I could become an educator.

    1. The lack of correct punctuation, grammar, spelling, and mechanics in these posts is sad. Want to vilify teachers? Then just provided a link to this website. Proofread!

  25. WE Need to Help & Protect Children & Families, Workers & Elderly
    WE Need to Look After Our World & Each Other
    Now
    Is A Good Time to Start
    To Continue
    To GO Forward
    Intrepidly
    w/ Abilities to Respond

  26. A Good Start
    So Far So Fine
    WE Need to Recover
    WE Need to Recover Our Earth Our Environment
    WE Must Respond to Science to Sustain People & All Life On This Living Planet
    Physical Distance
    SOCIAL CLOSENESS

  27. I s awwww m a teacher and my husband is an aide. He just found out that his position will only be paid until April 30. We do not make more than $150,000 per year. Will we receive any stimulus money or unemployment for him?

  28. Thank you for helping the comunity i dont know if i spelled right lol 😁 i truely aprectiate what you have done for the people of the united states i hope to see a change for the world one day for the better.

  29. I think that it is embarrassing that our government allows businesses to make profits rather than provide free access to the internet which our students need right now. Some students don’t even have a computer in their household. With the taxes we pay, surely there should be enough for each student to have their own laptop for school work.

    1. Unfortunately, the “stimulus” money is just a loan from our next year’s tax return. It will be deducted from what we get next year. It will help in the short term, but we will feel it next year.

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