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Congress Stalls in Developing Next COVID Relief Package

This blog post is written by AACTE consultant Jane West and is intended to provide updated information. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of AACTE.

COVID Relief Package Progress Stalled

The Congress is scheduled to go into recess in two weeks.  The election is about 100 days away.  The nation is in crisis.  Yet this week brought us a back and forth between the White House and Senate Republican leadership that yielded leaks of morsels about a proposed COVID relief package followed by retractions, clarifications and proclamations by individual Republican Senators that they have not seen any proposals nor been able to weigh in. Democrats are growing antsy—with two proposals on the table—HEROES Act in the House and  the Coronavirus Childcare and Education Relief Act in the Senate. they are ready to negotiate.  But no one is at the table yet.

A Senate Republican leadership bill was promised this week. A sketch of a proposal was leaked with the caveat that nothing had been finalized or agreed to. With Monday and Tuesday focused on honoring Rep. John Lewis in the Capitol, the business week will be short.  The promise of that August recess is looking dim. With the federal unemployment checks scheduled to end at the end of the month and 1 in 5 workers now collecting unemployment benefits, much is at stake. Educators in both higher education and K-12 are struggling to make decisions now about school openings with little clear guidance and no sure knowledge of when or if there will be additional federal support.

The leaked summary of the next COVID relief bill indicates that there will be $105 billion available for education in the next package, which Republicans want to call “CARES-2.” Of that $105 billion, $5 billion would be available for a Governor’s fund (flexible for K-12 or higher education); $29 billion for higher education and $70 billion for K-12. 

Of the $70 billion for K-12, $10 billion goes to private schools.  $30 billion is distributed to states within 15 days and must be sent by states to school districts within 15 days after that. The remaining $30 billion is available only to schools that physically reopen and is contingent upon a district reopening plan.

Sen. Alexander (R-TN), chair of the HELP Committee and one of the leaders negotiating the new package, introduced a bill last week which will also be included in the next COVID relief package. It is intended to simplify and consolidate student loans. It includes a provision to extend the deferment of monthly student loan payments until students have an income. Then the system would change so that no student ever paid more than 10% of their income after deducting rent and food. Currently 40 million student loan borrowers are covered by the CARES Act which suspends interest and monthly payments until October 1. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the HELP Committee, called the Alexander plan “an unworkable proposal”.  She recommends a pause on payments for all borrowers until the pandemic is over. 

It has also been reported that Senate Republicans may introduce a series of five or six separate bills covering different areas rather than one large COVID relief package. It is planned that those bills will be introduced at the same time. This could complicate matters for negotiation as different negotiators could be at the table for each of the individual bills. 

New Resources for Educators

Sunday, July 26, marks the 30th Anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  It is heartening to know that the federal government can be such a powerful force for progress. When Republicans and Democrats work together and set a place at the table for their constituents, solutions can be found.  We need more of that!

Read the full Washington Update on my website for more information and remember to follow me on Twitter at @janewestdc.

 


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Jane E. West

AACTE Education Policy Consultant

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