Deliverd via email: April 27, 2020
APPLICATION AVAILABLE FOR K-12 EMERGENCY RELIEF FUNDSThe U.S. Department of Education (USDE) announced on Thursday that applications were available for states to apply for their portion of the $13.5 billion included for K-12 education in the third stimulus package, the CARES Act. On a call with the USDE, they stated their goal is for states to receive funds approximately three days after submission of an application. A majority of the funds are to be distributed to school districts based on Title I distribution rules. Additionally, the USDE stated that funds from the CARES Act may be used for cost reimbursement for expenditures due to COVID-19 from when the emergency began (March 13), not the date the Act was passed (March 27).
The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) is also reminding districts that the CARES Act included waiver options, for which Illinois has been approved, to allow districts more flexibility in Titles I, II, III, and IV, as well as the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. Details are available on the ISBE website.
FOURTH STIMULUS PACKAGELast week, Congress approved a $484 billion coronavirus relief bill (H.R. 266). The measure provides additional funding for small businesses ($380 billion), hospitals ($75 billion), and disease testing ($25 billion). The bill does not include additional funding support for education, or other parts of state and local government. It is expected that Congress will begin working soon on another spending bill that will most likely address growing local need. IASB, as a member, has been following the lead of the National School Boards Association (NSBA) in advocating for flexibility in provisions under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and for additional funds for the E-Rate program which provides funds to assist districts with broadband connectivity. Additionally, NSBA and IASB are advocating for $200 billion in additional funding for K-12 education to help offset expected state and local revenue losses associated with the economic downturn.
Congressman Brad Schneider (IL-10) is leading the effort, which NSBA and IASB are supporting, to urge House and Senate leadership in the next stimulus package to make state and local governments eligible for payroll tax credits for emergency paid sick and family leave included in the second stimulus package, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The tax credits are currently available to private and non-profit employers. This change would provide much needed assistance to state and local governments experiencing economic difficulties during this public health crises.
NSBA and IASB are also supporting legislation introduced last week by Congresswoman Grace Meng (NY-6) to address the homework gap issue. H.R. 6563 would create a special $2 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund administered through the E-Rate Program for schools and libraries under the direction of the Federal Communications Commission. The funds would be used to purchase Wi-Fi hot spots, modems, routers, and internet-connected devices. It is hoped this language will end up as part of the next stimulus package.
SCHOOL NUTRITION FLEXIBILITY DENIEDA federal court struck down the U.S. Department of Agriculture's 2018 Final Rule that eliminated and delayed stricter nutrition standards for school meals, which were established under the Healthy, Hungry-Free Kids Act. Specifically, the Rule would have given districts flexibility dealing with the sodium and whole grain targets. The court stated the Rule violated the Administrative Procedure Act, which regulates how federal agencies develop and issue regulations.
USDE ALLOWS DONATION OF PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENTThe USDE has published guidance that provides clear guidance that Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) funded equipment may be donated to health providers to help address the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, the new guidance says CTE programs may "donate or loan personal protective equipment (PPE) and other medical supplies purchased with federal funds to public health agencies, private nonprofit hospitals, and other licensed health providers to support the nationwide coronavirus response effort."
Separately, the USDE released a second round of frequently asked questions regarding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the implementation of CTE programs and services under the Carl. D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. These questions focus on local plan requirements, consultation, and performance data submissions.
RURAL DISTANCE LEARNING GRANTSThe U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced a second application window for the Distance Learning and Telemedicine program. Applications for the second window may be submitted through grants.gov from now through July 13, 2020. The Agency said, "Access to distance learning and telemedicine makes it easier for thousands of rural residents to take advantage of health care and educational opportunities without having to travel long distances or be among large groups of people." Rural Development was provided an additional $25 million in the CARES Act for the Distance Learning and Telemedicine grant program. USDA will make a separate announcement in coming weeks when these funds are available.
DEADLINE EXTENSION FOR CTE PLAN SUBMISSIONSThe USDE is providing states with more time to submit long-term plans for implementing the CTE. Secretary DeVos said recipients will still receive their CTE funds on time and states may also provide funding recipients additional time to complete their applications. States that are ready to submit their applications may still adhere to the previous deadline: April 15, 2020. If additional time is needed, they may submit their plans by June 15, 2020, and at the latest, September 15, 2020. States that submit plans in September will still receive funds in July, with a commitment from the state that the plan will be submitted on time in September. Further information on the new flexibilities can be found in this FAQ document.
This Federal Legislative Report was written with assistance from the National School Boards Association.