House set to vote on COVID-19 package
The House Budget Committee has pulled together committee-approved components of President Biden’s COVID-19 package, creating a single bill that will come to the House floor this week; action could continue through the weekend. The Senate plans to take up the House-passed bill the week of March 1. Democrats are pushing to enact the legislation before March 14, when unemployment benefits for more than 11 million workers begin to expire.
The current House bill includes NEA’s top priorities: $170 billion in dedicated education funding to help advance the process of safely returning to in-person instruction at K-12 public school buildings, college campuses and universities; $350 billion in state and local aid to avoid further layoffs of educators and other essential public servants; and $7 billion to address an aspect of the digital divide known as the homework gap—the inability to do schoolwork at home due to lack of internet access—via the E-Rate program administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
NEA is also pushing to require all employers to provide paid sick leave for the duration of the pandemic. Sixty percent of U.S. workers do not have access to paid sick leave through their employers, including many education support professionals. TAKE ACTION
New immigration bill provides pathways to citizenship
President Biden’s promise “to restore humanity and American values to our immigration system” is the basis for the U.S. Citizenship Act introduced Feb. 18 in both the Senate and the House. The bill would provide legal status and pathways to citizenship for Dreamers—people brought to the United States as minors who know no other country as home—and others allowed to remain here for humanitarian reasons.
“The introduction of the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 is a necessary and good step towards transforming America’s inhumane immigration system into one that is more humane, functional, and centered in racial justice, and respects all people, regardless of race, religion, or birthplace,” said NEA President Becky Pringle. She noted that those who would benefit include “an estimated 15,000 educators who have continued to provide and sustain student learning during the pandemic.”
For participants in Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Status Holders (TPS) since Jan. 1, 2017, the pathway to citizenship would be three years. For undocumented individuals in the United States since Jan. 1, 2021, the pathway to citizenship would be eight years—temporary status for five years, then Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) or green card status for three years. The bill would also eliminate restrictions on family-based immigration and expand visas for foreign workers. TAKE ACTION
House to vote on Equality Act this week
The House is scheduled to vote this week on the Equality Act (H.R. 5) to give LGBTQ Americans explicit protection from discrimination in key areas of life: employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally funded programs, and jury service. The bill would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act, and other federal laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics.
The current patchwork of laws—most states lack non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity—leaves many students and educators vulnerable to discrimination and sends the message LGBTQ Americans are second-class citizens. The Equality Act would help cultivate nurturing and supportive school environments for LGBTQ students while safeguarding LGBTQ educators, often key sources of support and encouragement for LGBTQ students. TAKE ACTION
Cheers and Jeers
Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced the JOBS Act (S. 210) to help to ensure borrowers are not inhibited from working solely because they fell behind on their federal student loan payments.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) reintroduced the Keep Our PACT Act (S. 72), which would put Congress on a fiscally-responsible path to meet its obligation to fully fund Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) on a mandatory basis over the next 10 years.
Reps. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), John Katko (R-NY), Bobby Scott (D-VA), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), and Lucy McBath (D-GA) reintroduced the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (H.R. 1065) to ensure workers are no longer forced to choose between their jobs and the health of their pregnancies.