Shortly before adjourning for good, the 116th Congress provided a $900 billion down payment on coronavirus relief. The package is a mixed bag. On the one hand, it provides some relief for students, educators, and working families. On the other, it does not include state and local aid that would help avoid laying off educators, firefighters, and other essential public servants—a top NEA priority. Other shortcomings include the lack of dedicated funding for the E-Rate program to help close the homework gap and the failure to extend the moratorium on student-loan payments that expires on Jan. 31.
Key provisions include:
- $82 billion to help equip schools and campuses to reopen safely and address budget shortfalls, as well as address personnel costs; $2.75 billion is earmarked for private schools with restrictions and public accountability requirements
- One-time $600 payments for eligible adults and dependent children
- Federal unemployment benefits of $300 per week through March 31 for eligible workers
- $7 billion for coronavirus testing and vaccine distribution
- Increases Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits by 15 percent and expands the Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) program for families with children in childcare programs and meals for seniors
- Tax credits for private sector employers that provide paid emergency sick leave—a half-measure, at best, that does not guarantee workers who are sick or exposed to COVID-19 can safely stay home without losing pay