Senators share details of latest COVID relief bills

The $748 billion Emergency Coronavirus Relief Act of 2020 would provide $20 billion for the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund.
By: | December 15, 2020
Photo by Darren Halstead on Unsplash

A bipartisan group of senators on Dec. 14 unveiled details of compromise COVID-19 relief bills that would include $82 billion for education funding.

The $748 billion Emergency Coronavirus Relief Act of 2020 would distribute education funds in the same manner that the CARES Act distributed funds. The bill would provide $54 billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund; $7.5 billion for the Governors Emergency Education Relief Fund, including $2.5 billion for private schools, and $20 billion for the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund.

The proposed bill would provide $3 billion for an Emergency Educational Connectivity Fund to provide E-rate support for educational and distance learning providers. The funds can be used for hotspots, devices, and other connected devices. The bill also includes $6.25 billion for State Broadband Deployment and Connectivity grants to expand affordable access to broadband.

The senators also unveiled a separate measure, the Bipartisan State and Local Support and Small Business Protection Act of 2020, that would provide $160 billion for state, local, and tribal assistance.

The bill would provide $152 billion through the Coronavirus Relief Fund established in the CARES Act, which would be distributed at governors’ discretion. Several states have put CARES Act CRF funds toward education initiatives. It would also extend the deadline to use funds to Dec. 31, 2021. Currently, those funds are set to expire at the end of this year.

“The two bipartisan, bicameral emergency relief bills shared today are a compromise that will carry the American people through April 1st of next year to ensure our healthcare crisis doesn’t become an economic catastrophe,” said Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. “For Congress to do nothing in the face of a national crisis of this magnitude is unacceptable, and I encourage my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support these bipartisan solutions.”

Proponents of the measures hope they will be included in an omnibus spending bill to fund federal agencies through the end of FY 2021; however, it remains unclear if negotiators will complete their work by the Dec. 18 deadline of the current continuing resolution. Congress may be required to pass an additional funding extension to wrap up negotiations on both measures.

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