President Biden announced the release of $81 billion in funding from the Covid-19 relief bill for school reopenings Wednesday, part of the administration’s efforts toward getting the majority of schools opened in his first 100 days in office and addressing inequity caused by the pandemic.
“I’m really proud to announce that starting today, states will begin receiving nearly $130 billion in school funding that we included in the American Rescue Plan. In fact, $81 billion of those dollars will be arriving today to those schools,” Biden said during a virtual summit on school reopening hosted by the Department of Education.
Biden called on states to take the next steps, saying, “I need states to move quickly to get these resources down to the school districts and put them to work.”
The President also reiterated his message that “help is here.”
“Help is here for schools to purchase PPE, hire additional personnel like nurses, counselors, custodial staff, improve ventilation and sanitation, avoid devastating layoffs and give students extra support,” he said, adding, “Help is here to help students make up for lost time and lost learning. Unless we act quickly, this pandemic could have a devastating long term impact on our kids who have gone through this, including on their mental health.”
More on the funds: The administration is releasing funding for schools as part of the $1.9 trillion Covid relief package to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, on Wednesday. The bill included $122 billion in relief for Pre-K to 12 schools, and two-thirds of those funds, totaling $81 billion, “will be made available to states immediately,” the Department of Education said in a statement.
The funds, the statement said, will “support their efforts to get students back in the classroom safely for in person learning, keep schools open once students are back, and address the academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs of all students.”
The additional one-third of funding, per the Department of Education, “will become available after states submit the plans they are developing and implementing for using (emergency relief) funds to safely reopen schools and meet the needs of students to the Department.”
Part of the funding for schools will be used to address educational inequity that has only been exacerbated by the pandemic, with Education Secretary Miguel Cardona outlining inequity in the return to in-person learning.
Vice President Kamala Harris expressed concern for students disproportionally impacted, explaining how the funding could help address those challenges.
“We’re all worried about our students falling behind, especially those who attend schools that are underfunded and under-resourced, and especially our students who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Those who are learning English, students with disabilities, students without access to broadband, students who are food insecure and so many more,” Harris said.
The money for schools, she said, includes “evidence-based interventions that will help bridge the gaps in learning and meet social and emotional needs in the wake of the pandemic.”
One specific measure aimed at addressing that is summer learning and enrichment opportunities, with Biden calling on states, school districts, and community partners to work together on the matter.