Below is the latest America Forward “Tip Sheet,” a weekly update related to COVID-19 relief and recovery legislation.
The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act
Last week, House Democrats released the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, their proposal for the next COVID-19 relief package. It provides approximately $3 trillion in total funding. The House voted on the package on Friday and passed it on a vote of 208 – 199.
For Education, the bill includes a $90 billion State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF) through the U.S. Department of Education (ED), which awards grants to governors to support K-12, public institutions of higher education (IHEs) and early childhood education. Of the funds received by each State, 65 percent would go to local educational agencies (LEAs) and 30 percent would go to public IHEs.
The bill also provides:
- $1.708 billion for Title III and Title V IHEs under the Higher Education Act (HEA), $7 billion for private nonprofit IHEs, and $1.4 billion for public or private nonprofit IHEs with unmet need due to COVID-19.
- Up to $10,000 per borrower in Federal student loan forgiveness.
- Emergency funding for USDA nutrition programs including for school meals, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
- $7 billion for Child Care and Development Block Grants
- $2 billion for employment and training, including a provision allowing workforce boards to use up to 40 percent of funds for transitional jobs, and supports for subsidized youth employment
- $1.5 billion through the E-Rate Program immediately for schools and libraries to purchase hotspots, connected devices, connectivity and related equipment to facilitate distance learning during the emergency.
- $4 billion to connect struggling families by providing up to $50 a month for those low-income families already eligible for the Lifeline Program— and for those that have been laid off or furloughed—to pay their internet service bills during the emergency
- A provision setting aside 25 percent of remaining Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds for nonprofits, of which half, up to 12.5 percent of total PPP funds, may go to nonprofits with over 500 employees. This is a policy change for which America Forward has advocated. As PPP dollars are being rapidly depleted and this bill does not replenish the program, the practical impact of this provision may be modest.
- Provisions mandating that the Federal Reserve’s Main Street Lending Program offer loans to nonprofits, including small loans for small nonprofits, and that it provide a forgivable loan option for nonprofits serving predominantly low-income communities that are ineligible for PPP loans. America Forward has also advocated for these policy changes.
The House Appropriations Committee has released a section by section summary of the introduced bill which can be accessed here.
Supporting National and Community Service
America Forward joined with Voices for National Service in calling on Congress to provide the necessary resources in the HEROES Act to ensure that AmeriCorps and Senior Corps are stabilized and expanded. We signed a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi which called for the House to include in the HEROES Act provisions of the Pandemic Response and Opportunity Through National Service Act, which was endorsed by America Forward and would deploy 750,000 civilian national service members to help our communities heal and recover. A copy of the letter along with other statements of support from organizations and mayors can be found here.
Please note, while ultimately, the HEROES bill does not contain funding to expand national and community service, House and Senate supporters of the Pandemic Response and Opportunity Through National Service Act will continue to champion the bill and call for it to be included in this or future COVID-related legislation.
Supporting Today’s Students
Last week, America Forward signed onto a letter from the Today’s Student Coalition urging Congressional leaders to address the challenges facing post-secondary students in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.
Specifically, the letter calls on Congress to allow income-eligible students to participate in the SNAP program “for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure increased food access for today’s students,” and to ensure direct financial support for Today’s Students by issuing stimulus checks “to all students or through the creation of a direct student support grant program.” You can read the text of the full letter here.
Also last week, America Forward joined more than 60 other organizations in signing on in support of the Supporting Connectivity for Higher Education Students in Need Act, led by Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) in the House and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) in the Senate, which would establish “a $1 billion fund at the [National Telecommunications and Information Administration] to be used to provide funding for colleges and universities to pay for at-home internet connections for students in need.” You can read a press release about the legislation from Rep. Eshoo’s office here.
From the Coalition
Op-Ed: A Diverse Approach To Scale Contact Tracing
This week, Forbes published a piece by Jonathan Hasak, a Senior Director at America Forward Coalition member Year Up. In his piece, Jonathan writes that governors in charge of rapidly scaling up contact tracing programs should “direct their respective task forces, cabinet secretaries, and health agencies to design equitable and inclusive contact tracing job programs that prioritize diverse talent.” In this way, states can build contact tracing workforces that reflect the communities hardest hit by COVID-19, as well as expand economic opportunity now and seed a more equitable healthcare talent pipeline for the future.
Op-Ed: Reinventing distance learning means enlisting low-income parents: Giving out laptops isn’t enough
In the New York Daily News, Alejandro Gibes de Gac, CEO and Founder of Springboard Collaborative, writes of the focus on the digital divide during COVID-19: “…while improving access to technology is laudable, there’s an insidious assumption lurking far beneath the surface: that in order to educate poor kids, we need to work around their parents, not with them or through them. Even with a tablet in the hands of every low-income student in America, the achievement gap wouldn’t magically shrink. The only way to prevent COVID-19 from deepening inequality for an entire generation is to equip families to support learning at home.”
Read more from Alejandro about why we must take this opportunity to more effectively engage families.
Last Friday, the House passed the HEROES Act by a vote of 208-199. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated the Senate will not take up the HEROES Act; instead, the Senate will work on its own measure. Negotiations over final legislation are likely to take weeks. In the context of the ongoing negotiations, America Forward will continue to work with our Coalition and other partners to ensure our funding and policy priorities are elevated to congressional leaders.
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