Dear Congress: Prioritize Key Investments in Education and Workforce During COVID-19 Relief and Recovery

Late last week, America Forward sent a letter to Congressional leaders about centering nonprofits and vulnerable communities in any additional COVID-19 relief and recovery policy. The letter, drawing insight from America Forward’s deep advocacy over the last two months, calls on Congress to focus on “…fully including nonprofit organizations in the relief efforts and directing critical funding to those most in need in our communities,” while noting that “the resources made available through the CARES Act and the subsequent Paycheck Protection Program and Healthcare Act will be insufficient to meet the scale of the challenges presented by COVID-19.”

The letter offers specific policy and regulatory recommendations in early childhood, K-12 education, distance learning, higher education, workforce, and national service.

Read the original letter in PDF form HERE or browse the full text below:.


The Honorable Nancy Pelosi

Speaker of the House

The Honorable Kevin McCarthy

House Minority Leader

The Honorable Mitch McConnell   

Senate Majority Leader

The Honorable Chuck Schumer

Senate Minority Leader


Dear Speaker Pelosi, Leader McCarthy, Leader McConnell, and Leader Schumer:

As communities across the country grapple with the devastating effects of COVID-19, we want to thank you for your leadership to pass policy and appropriations measures that help the students, families, nonprofits, and communities that are part of the America Forward Coalition respond and recover from this crisis. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) provides vital resources to address the education and workforce impact of COVID-19.

During both the development and, now, the implementation of the CARES Act, America Forward – along with our Coalition organizations and partners – has been outspoken in support of fully including nonprofit organizations in the relief efforts and of directing critical funding to those most in need in our communities. It is clear, however, that the resources made available through the CARES Act and the subsequent Paycheck Protection Program and Healthcare Act will be insufficient to meet the scale of the challenges presented by COVID-19.

We cannot ignore the pressing need of students, families, and nonprofits today, nor can we afford to lose sight of the support that will continue to be necessary in the coming months and years. As you work to implement the CARES Act and consider additional relief, recovery, and economic stimulus efforts, it is imperative that you create the conditions for inclusive, sustained recovery.

As we face unprecedented budget challenges amidst state and local budget cuts, schools, universities and childcare centers are going to need our help more than ever to build capacity in order to serve students and their families.  At the same time, the impact of hunger, homelessness, violence, and poverty has only been made more acute, and with schools closed to prevent the spread of the virus, many students and families have lost access to vital supports. This trauma is further compounded by the disruption of a consistent school routine, stirring up feelings of uncertainty and isolation for every child. Federal efforts must fund critical supports to address the impact of trauma in the short term, and create a framework for trauma-informed, whole learner approaches throughout the long-term recovery from this crisis.

While the needs of our students, families and communities continue to grow and cannot all be captured in one request alone letter, we ask that you prioritize the following policy and funding decisions that will help sustain the nonprofits in our Coalition and among our partners and provide critical funding for education and workforce needs in our communities.

Early Childhood:

  • Many childcare facilities are being asked to remain open in order to provide care in this time of incredible need and uncertainty. The CARES Act recognizes the unique role childcare providers are playing, as well as the need for care by essential workers at this time. We recommend additional resources be allocated through the Child Care Development Block Grant and Head Start as funding provided through CARES will not be sufficient to meet these unique needs. Further, as the nation begins to look to reopening certain parts of the economy, we will need to provide the necessary supports to those facilities that will need to reopen to care for children whose parents are returning to work outside the home.

K-12 Education:

  • Building off the Education Stabilization Fund from the CARES Act, we support the inclusion of additional funds of $175 billion for K-12 education to support state and local efforts to continue and deepen high-quality learning this summer and into the next school year. This funding will assist our schools and communities as they face great challenges—including lost support from state and local tax revenue, widening achievement gaps and the impact of trauma on our children and their families.
  • It is clear that when schools open their doors, their student population will face additional challenges, with more students coming from families living at or near poverty, and students with disabilities in need of significant supports and services. We urge Congress, therefore, to provide $13 billion for IDEA, $12 billion for Title I and $1 billion for Title III to help school districts address the litany of needs for these students, playing catch up in the aftermath of COVID.

Distance Learning:

  • Congress must include at least $2 billion in funding to the E-rate program. As schools and families find themselves in the unprecedented situation of widespread home-based learning as schools are closed, it has highlighted a long-documented and persistent inequity as it relates to access to broadband. In addition, funding should be included to expand the E-Rate to benefit students enrolled in postsecondary education in order to allow institutions of higher education to facilitate mobile broadband hotspots to higher education students with financial need. Congress should also make changes to the Lifeline program by allowing students who are eligible for the Pell Grant to be eligible for services through the program.

Higher Education: 

  • The CARES Act and other actions by the Administration provided much-needed funding and student loan relief and flexibility to begin to address the critical needs of students and institutions of higher education. As we move towards another funding package, we support efforts to provide additional funds to support student needs such as housing, technology assistance for online learning, or travel; and to support institutions that are losing staggering sums after closing for safety reasons and refunding tuition, room and board.

Workforce Investments:

  • As jobs are being lost and businesses are closing, we need to make sure new funds – including for different strategies like transitional employment and supported employment – are in the pipeline for individuals to be able to get training and employment opportunities they need. We call on Congress to include $15 billion in investments in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) for Adult, Youth and Dislocated Workers programs; for Adult Education; and Career and Technical Education.
  • We urge you to ensure that the recovery package includes supports that employment social enterprises (ESEs) can access. ESEs are mission-driven, evidence-based businesses that provide employment and on-the-job life skills training to participants who face high barriers to employment such as the recently incarcerated, homeless, low-skill workers, or opportunity youth.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted the opportunities available for millions of young adults. Opportunity youth – those young people neither enrolled in school nor participating in the labor market – are at particular risk during this crisis, as well as during the ensuing economic recovery. For these young people, innovative education and job training programs can be a lifeline, but resources for these programs are already spread thin. In order to address these needs, we request that you provide $250 million in emergency funding for the YouthBuild program at the Labor Department so programs can continue to serve current participants and scale up for the inevitable surge in demand.

National Service:

  • National service corps programs provide invaluable human capital in classrooms, in school systems, and in partnership with nonprofit organizations and small businesses. Just as education cannot stop in the face of the COVID0-19 crisis, neither can our support for service programs. National service corps members will play a vital role in rebuilding and revitalizing our communities in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. As such, America Forward supports legislation that would dramatically increase the number of national service positions over a three-year response and recovery period, in part to meet the projected need for as many as 300,000 public health workers and the need for expanded supports in our schools. We must also expand partnerships between AmeriCorps and federal health agencies and increase the AmeriCorps living allowance to ensure all Americans can step up to serve regardless of their financial circumstances

America Forward will continue to be deeply engaged with our Coalition partners and policymakers to ensure that federal policies and resources are grounded in equity, build evidence for and scale effective approaches, are targeted at communities most impacted by this crisis, and connect to the outcomes that matter most to these communities.

As initial recovery funding makes its way to state and local authorities and individual school systems – and as you debate additional recovery efforts in the coming weeks – we appreciate the opportunity to share with you those priorities of America Forward and the students, families and communities we serve.


America Forward




Photo by Mike Erskine on Unsplash

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