Last month, President Biden announced a proposal for a sixth COVID-relief package that would total $1.9 trillion. Among other provisions, the proposal would allocate $160 billion for funding a nationwide vaccination program, expand testing, create a public health jobs program, and take other measures to address the pandemic. It would extend unemployment benefits to $400/week through September and allow for 14 weeks of COVID-related paid leave (however state/local governments would be eligible for a refundable tax credit). It would allocate $40 billion for childcare development grants and $130 billion to help K-12 schools reopen as well as $350 billion in aid for state and local governments. The proposal would include stimulus checks for Americans-$1,400/person maximum, with some caveats based on several factors.This week, Senate Republicans released a counter proposal for a sixth COVID-relief measure, which would total $618 billion. The proposal would allocate $160 billion to direct COVID-related pandemic response efforts to scale up vaccine distribution, testing, disaster relief, PPE distribution to health care workers, among other items. It would extend unemployment insurance (UI) benefits at $300/week through June 30 for all states; allocate $20 billion for childcare programs and $20 billion to help K-12 schools reopen. The proposal also would include stimulus checks for Americans-$1,000/person; this amount would begin phasing out for single tax filers at $40k/year (with a $50k cap) and joint filers at $80k/year (with a $100k cap); $500 would be allocated for dependent adults and children. President Biden met with a group of GOP senators to discuss the proposed package yesterday, however no immediate deal was brokered from those discussions.In the meantime, House and Senate Democrats are moving forward with another method to pass a partisan COVID-relief package (aligned with Biden's plan but may not be exactly the same) in the event a bipartisan bill is not attainable. This method, known as "budget reconciliation," is a fast-tracked method to pass legislation that must meet specific spending requirements but can bypass a filibuster and only require 50 votes to pass. This process was used unsuccessfully by Republicans in 2016 and 2017 to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and again (successfully) for tax reform in 2018 (which became the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act under President Trump). With a Democrat majority in the House and split in the Senate (with Vice President Harris able to cast the tie-breaking vote), it would be possible for Democrats to pass a budget reconciliation package that includes COVID-relief provisions without requiring Republican votes. Learn more about how this process could come into play here.Please stay tuned to this thread for updates on the next COVID-relief package and what's in store for K-12 education and schools as we learn more information.
Those who want more information on what Democrats are considering for COVID-19 relief and other legislative priorities (as they move forward on their budget reconciliation process) can read this press release about a budget resolution filed by Rep. Pelosi and Sen. Schumer yesterday. The resolution instructs Congressional committees to begin crafting legislation to enact President Biden's COVID-19 response plan, which is the first step needed to begin reconciliation.
Some highlights include instructions for committees to:
In early February, President Biden released a detailed $145 billion estimate of how much it will cost to help schools reopen to justify to Congress why additional federal COVID-relief for K-12 education is needed. As AASA notes in their blog, this document is an improvement upon Biden's original $130 billion proposal to support K-12 education that he shared in January. We are pleased to see that Biden's new estimate is based on CDC data as well as ASBO International's and AASA's COVID-19 cost analysis infographic (access the administration's full estimate here.)Meanwhile, FutureEd reports that the House Budget Committee will meet next week "to consider a $1.9 trillion stimulus package proposed by President Joe Biden that would dedicate an additional $170 billion for K-12 schools and higher education, as well as spending billions more to prop up the state and local governments that are critical to funding education." The package would implement President Biden's "American Rescue Plan" to address the COVID-19 pandemic and is comprised of several bills marked up by several Congressional committees from the past few weeks. The draft legislation would provide $170 billion for K-12 and higher education and other dedicated funding for state and local governments, among other provisions. Once the package is amended by and clears the House, it must undergo scrutiny in the Senate to ensure it meets unique requirements to continue to be fast-tracked through Congress (and bypass the need for Republican support). Only after the House and Senate resolve differences on amendments to the package will it be sent to the president for signature. (For more information on how this "budget reconciliation" process works, visit here.)Democrats hope to pass a final reconciliation package before the end of February, but negotiations could drag on, especially considering ongoing debates about whether the package will include a controversial $15/hour minimum wage provision. Disagreements may hold the process up, making mid-March a more likely deadline for passage. In the meantime, ASBO International will continue advocating on members' behalf to help districts get the resources they need to safely reopen schools. School business professionals can help advocate for additional K-12 financial aid by completing ASBO International's COVID-19 Financial Impact Survey, which closes on Friday, February 19.