Biden’s COVID-19 relief plan includes $40B for higher ed

$170 billion in education stimulus would give $130 billion to K-12 schools, with the remainder going to colleges dealing with the shift to distance learning and other pandemic-related problems
By: | January 15, 2021
WILMINGTON, DELAWARE - JANUARY 14: U.S. President-elect Joe Biden speaks as he lays out his plan for combating the coronavirus and jump-starting the nation’s economy at the Queen theater January 14, 2021 in Wilmington, Delaware. President-elect Biden is expected to unveil a stimulus package with a price tag of trillions of dollars including a $1,400 direct payment to individuals who have been struggling with the economic turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

President-elect Biden released a $1.9 trillion plan for COVID-19 relief that would provide $170 billion in funds for education as well as investments in COVID-19 testing to expedite students’ and teachers’ return to in-person learning.

The administration will do “everything we can to keep our educators and students safe and to safely open a majority of our K-8 schools by the end of our first 100 days,” Biden said in a speech announcing his plan. “We can do it, if we give school districts, communities, and states the clear guidance they need as well as the resources they will need that they cannot afford right now because of the economic crisis we are in.”

Biden said his plan will support “more testing and transportation, additional cleaning and sanitizing services, protective equipment, and ventilation systems in the schools.”

The plan includes $170 billion for K-12 and higher education stimulus funding, which will “help achieve President-elect Biden’s goal to open the majority of K-8 schools within the first 100 days of his administration.”


Related: 8 steps Biden can take to bring international students back


Biden’s plan calls for $130 billion in funds to provide flexible resources for K-12 schools to reopen or provide distance learning. Much of the rest of the money would go to help colleges dealing with the shift to distance learning and other pandemic-related problems, according to The New York Times. The funds could be used to:

  • Reduce class sizes and modify spaces so students and teachers can socially distance;
  • Improve ventilation;
  • Hire more janitors and implement mitigation measures;
  • Provide personal protective equipment;
  • Ensure every school has access to a nurse;
  • Increase transportation capacity to facilitate social distancing on the bus;
  • Hire counselors to support students as they transition back to the classroom;
  • Close the digital divide that is exacerbating inequities during the pandemic;
  • Provide summer school or other support for students that will help make up lost learning time this year;
  • Create and expand community schools; and
  • Cover other costs needed to support safely reopening and support students.

Biden said his plan will include emergency funding for essential workers, including teachers, and will allow schools to access Federal Emergency Management Administration resources to reimburse certain COVID-19 expenses. It will also provide $50 billion for a “massive expansion” of COVID-19 testing, which will “support schools and local governments implement regular testing protocols,” that support safely reopening schools.

It remains to be seen how soon the proposal will be introduced in Congress after Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20.

Charles Hendrix covers education funding and other Title I issues for LRP Publications.