Tell senators to support new COVID-19 bill
The House acted decisively on Friday to stem the mounting damage from COVID-19, passing the $3 trillion HEROES Act by a vote of 208-199. State and local governments are facing huge shortfalls—potentially, even bigger than during the Great Depression. More than 36 million Americans are unemployed, including nearly 40 percent of those from households earning less than $40,000.
“Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated the inequities facing our most vulnerable students and with the economic downturn now threatening the future of public schools, parents and educators are standing together because we cannot wait. Our nation’s students cannot pay the price in this crisis,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia.
Already, too many Americans have lost jobs, homes, and hope. The HEROES Act aims to stave off further disaster. Key provisions for students and educators include:
- Nearly $200 billion to fill state and local budget gaps. The HEROES Act provides $915 billion in direct relief for state and local governments and $100 billion specifically for the Education Stabilization Fund. The money can be used to maintain student services and support, avoid layoffs of educators and other frontline workers, provide personal protective equipment (PPE), and more—but NOT microgrants or other voucher schemes proposed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
- Support for narrowing the digital divide and closing the homework gap. The HEROES Act takes steps to equip more students to go online, so they can do schoolwork at home and keep up with their peers. But it needs to do more. Roughly 1 in 5—as many as 12 million students—cannot login from home. A disproportionate share of those students are African American, Hispanic, live in rural areas, or come from low-income families.
- Relief for student loan borrowers. The HEROES Act extends the suspension of student loan payments and interest through September 2021, includes more types of loans, cancels up to $10,000 in student loan debt for certain borrowers, and grants emergency relief to victims of unscrupulous institutions.
In addition, the HEROES Act provides more direct payments to households, further extends unemployment benefits, picks up the cost of COBRA payments for laid off workers, increases support for free and reduced-price school meals, and takes steps to protect voters’ rights and ensure access to the ballot box. LEARN MORE TAKE ACTION
Cheers and Jeers
Reps. Brendan Boyle (D-PA) and David Joyce (R-OH) led a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy urging them to support amendments to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program that provide coronavirus-specific relief.
Sens. Doug Jones (D-AL) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) led a letter urging Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to include robust funding for America’s schools, educators, and students in the next round of COVID-19 relief funding. “We are particularly concerned about how the educator workforce and other school personnel will be impacted by COVID-19,” they wrote.