America Forward Weekly Tip Sheet: Policy and Advocacy (3/8)

Below is the latest America Forward “Tip Sheet,” a weekly update on Federal activity related to education, workforce development, and other priorities of the America Forward Coalition.

What’s New In Washington

Over the weekend in Washington, the Senate passed their version of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (H.R. 1319), which provides $1.9 trillion in emergency relief through cash payments to individuals, plus critical support for vaccine distribution, employers, states, unemployed workers, schools, libraries, and childcare providers. The bill, also referred to as the Fiscal Year 2021 (FY 21) Budget Reconciliation Package, passed the House on Feb. 27, 2021. On Tuesday, the bill will return to the House of Representatives for a final vote and then to the President for his signature.

We are very pleased that the Senate version is similar to the House bill and includes many of the key education provisions that we support. More specifically, the Senate reconciliation bill includes similar provisions to dedicate billions of dollars to support institutions of higher education, strengthen child care providers, expand national service programs, and ensure critical food assistance for families. It also includes language requiring that a significant percentage of the $126 billion allocated for safe school reopening be used to support evidence-based, holistic strategies that meet the needs of the whole learner and address the academic, social, and emotional impact of the pandemic. In addition, the Senate substitute dedicates, from the funds allocated, $1.26 billion to evidence-based summer programs, $1.26 billion for after-school programs, and $3.15 billion for education technology.

Other provisions that might be of interest to our Coalition members and their communities include the extension of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), of paid sick and family leave, and of the Employee Retention Tax Credit from July 1 through the end of the year; along with providing $340 billion in aid to state, local, tribal, and territorial governments.

Additionally, Miguel Cardona, President Biden’s nominee for Secretary of Education, was confirmed by the Senate on Monday, March 1 by a vote of 64-33.

Save the Date

March 26, 2021: Congressional Briefing: SEL Policy to Foster Connection after Trauma

How can federal policy support state efforts to foster positive youth skill development and overall mental health? The pre-K to Grade 12 education system has been tested in unprecedented ways over the past year, and educators, leaders, students, and their families have stepped up to the challenge in unique and innovative ways. One key lesson is the importance of centering social and emotional development and well-being to help students and adults navigate virtual and in-person learning, especially while working through trauma. In this briefing, students, members of Congress, and experts in child development will discuss the importance of social emotional learning (SEL) concepts and how they can be advanced through federal policy.

To register for this briefing – organized by America Forward, Committee for Children, Harmony SEL at National University, Learning Policy Institute, and Urban Assembly – click here.

Update: America Forward Statement on Confirmation of Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona

America Forward released the following statement after the U.S. Senate voted, 64-33, to confirm Dr. Miguel Cardona as the next U.S. Secretary of Education:

We congratulate Secretary Cardona on his historic confirmation by the full Senate – the final vote was a signal of lawmakers’ confidence in Secretary Cardona’s ability to lead the Department of Education’s efforts to safely reopen schools; tackle the pressing challenges facing students, educators, and families; and help school communities across the country rebuild in equitable and restorative ways.

During the confirmation process, Secretary Cardona outlined a number of priorities for his tenure, including a deep focus on equity; a commitment to advancing whole-learner approaches that reflect a holistic view of healthy learning and development for every young person; intentional efforts to foster innovation, leverage evidence, and replicate best practices; and an emphasis on implementing trauma-informed approaches and creating safe and healthy learning environments.

Members of the America Forward Coalition are already working to advance these priorities in thousands of communities nationwide, and we look forward to partnering with Secretary Cardona and his team in the months ahead to expand proven approaches and improve outcomes for all students, educators, families, and school communities.

Letter: Support for Senate Reconciliation bill

As mentioned above, the Senate recently passed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which funds many of America Forward’s priorities for COVID-19 response and recovery. Ahead of the vote this weekend, America Forward led a letter of support for the Senate version of the reconciliation bill, here.

Update: Paycheck Protection Program

On Monday, February 22, President Biden and the SBA announced significant changes to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Under the new PPP rule, for the 14-day period from February 24 until March 10, only small businesses and nonprofit organizations with less than 20 employees may apply for PPP loans. Other changes include an increased emphasis on access for minority-owned businesses, elimination of restrictions on business owners with non-fraud-related felony convictions, elimination of restrictions on business owners who are delinquent on federal student loans, and clarification that Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers can be used in loan applications. Additionally, please reference this summary of the PPP changes from the SBA website.

Last spring, New Profit/America Forward partnered with We the Action (see our partnership announcement here). Through this partnership, America Forward Coalition members were connected with attorneys in the We the Action network who provided legal guidance to nonprofits as they applied for the PPP program. We have connected with We the Action and can share that attorneys in their network are again available to assist members of the America Forward Coalition. If you would like assistance, please reach out directly to We the Action team — Beth France ( and/or Katie Waldo ( — and note that you are a member of the America Forward/New Profit community. Please note that if your organization has already engaged with We the Action, you can submit requests / connect with the team through your account.

Update: Sherrill and Katko Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral FINISH Act to Support Innovation and Success in Higher Education

Last week, bipartisan champions in both chambers of Congress re-introduced the Fund for Innovation and Success in Higher Education (FINISH) Act – in the House, by Representatives Mikie Sherril (D-NJ) and John Katko (R-NY), and in the Senate by Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Todd Young (R-IN) and Tim Scott (R-SC) – building on their legislation from last Congress.

The bill would build evidence and scale what works in the higher education space to improve degree attainment and completion outcomes for first-generation students, students of color, and students experiencing poverty, as well as authorize innovation grants with a tiered evidence structure, encourage open-educational resources, and establish better evaluation authority. The legislation also works to support efficient and innovative uses of taxpayer funds through Pay-for-Outcomes initiatives.

America Forward joined over 100 organizations and individuals (including many members of our Coalition) to sign a support letter for the legislation and America Forward Executive Director, Deborah Smolover provided a quote, included in Rep. Sherrill’s press release in support of the legislation: “Across the country, millions of Americans face significant barriers to accessing and completing post-secondary education, contributing to persistent opportunity gaps and constraining entire communities. The bipartisan FINISH Act would make our higher education system more equitable by focusing attention and resources on measurably improving outcomes for the current and prospective college students today who urgently need a more functional ladder to opportunity and prosperity.”

Resource: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Grant Application and Funding Opportunity

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recently released a new grant application & funding opportunity, with a deadline of June 9, aimed at supporting “Systems and Services Research to Build a Culture of Health,” with a central emphasis on social determinants of health. Only public or nonprofit entities may apply, and we encourage Coalition members who might be a good fit to apply!

As RWJF explains: “Achieving racial equity and health equity in American communities requires effective solutions to the ‘wrong-pocket problem’: we invest in systems that are designed to improve social and economic conditions—such as housing, transportation, education, income, and employment assistance; child and family supports; and legal and criminal justice services—but the financial benefits of these often flow elsewhere, in reduced costs for medical care from diseases and injuries prevented. This creates imbalances in power, information, and financial resources that exist across medical, social, and public health systems—a fundamental problem that confronts many attempts at meaningful cross-sector collaboration. Such solutions must allow collaborating organizations to equitably share in the costs and the benefits of multi-sector collaborative initiatives, and to share in the power and influence that govern these initiatives. This call for proposals (CFP) will provide funding for new research to rigorously test and evaluate innovative solutions to the wrong-pocket problem that persists across health and social service systems.”

Additional details, FAQs, a list of key deliverables for proposals awarded a grant, and contact information for any further questions can be found here.

Update: More Pay For Success Projects Approved through ResultsOHIO Program

Last week, Ohio Treasurer Robert Sprague announced two additional project proposals deemed “Pay-for-Success Appropriate and Ready” through the ResultsOHIO program. (Treasurer Sprague previously announced the first round of five proposals deemed ready in January).

All told, the Treasurer’s office has now designated seven proposed projects as a “good fit for the PFS project delivery and financing structure.”

The two additional organizations whose proposals have been deemed PFS Appropriate and Ready this week are:

More information about all PFS Appropriate and Ready proposals and the ResultsOHIO initiative can be found at

Update: Senators Chris Coons and Roger Wicker plan to reintroduce the Cultivating Opportunity and Response to the Pandemic through Service (CORPS) Act

In preparation for the reintroduction of the CORPS Act, the offices of Senators Coons and Wicker are planning a #ServiceSaturday Social Media Campaign, to highlight how national service members have been on the front lines helping their communities respond and recover from the pandemic.

We know this list is long — supporting students with distance learning, helping schools to reopen safely, providing counseling and mental health support to families impacted by the pandemic, delivering food and medicine to vulnerable populations, helping struggling Americans access government nutrition and rental assistance, staffing 311 and COVID-19 vaccine hotlines, and so much more. To help collect all of these stories, Voices for National Service has created a Google Form where everyone can add service highlights from your organization. Submission guidelines can be found below:

  • Please upload your service highlights no later than Friday, March 12.
  • This information is being collected for a social media campaign so keep your highlights concise. Remember the 280 character limit on Twitter and think about how you can link to pictures you’ve already posted online or to previous social posts, press releases, or news articles. They need content that will be easy to share on social media.
  • Coons and Wicker are inviting all the original CORPS Act cosponsors to participate – so they have asked us to focus on collecting stories from the following states: Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin.
  • The highlights that are submitted through the Google Form will be segmented by state and the Coons and Wicker staff will push out state-specific information to their counterparts in the cosponsors’ offices. Each cosponsor will be asked to participate in #ServiceSaturday and encouraged to amplify the service stories from their respective states. It is important that we make this easy so offices will be eager to participate.

If you have any questions about this request, please reach out to Juan Carlos Perez at

From the America Forward Coalition

Survey: Nonprofit Experts Call For “The Great Nonprofit RESET” in 2021

Social Impact Architect founder and CEO, Suzanne Smith, along with other nonprofit experts – Kim Bulger of Atigro, John Gillespie of CRCFO, and Susan Kelly of Kelly Strategies – conducted a “survey of nonprofits in January 2021 to better understand the challenges facing the social sector and gather their top priorities.”

The survey found: “while many nonprofits were focused on ‘survival’ in 2020, nonprofits are embracing an optimistic growth outlook, with 70% expecting growth in 2021. But, each organization’s experience was unique. Some faced drastic revenue declines and related staff reductions, while others experienced a surge in need, increased complexity and revenue. Beneath those challenges is an opportunity for the social sector to rise to the occasion collectively.” Read more about the survey’s findings here.

Previous Article America Forward Coalition Members Step up During Crisis (Vol. 31) March 8, 2021 < Next Article America Forward Statement on the Signing of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 March 8, 2021 >

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