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American Rescue Plan passes Senate, contains billions in support for afterschool and summer learning

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American Rescue Plan passes Senate, contains billions in support for afterschool and summer learning

Update March 8, 4 p.m. ET: Reflects updated funding levels and amounts

The U.S. Senate joined the House of Representatives in passing the American Rescue Plan (ARP) on March 6. In all, the Senate bill could make $8.45 billion available at the state level for afterschool and summer programs, across all states; and $21.9 billion at the local level for afterschool and summer. To get a sense of the tremendous impact this funding could make, consider that $8.45 billion would provide programming for almost 9 million students in need.

Senate approved the measure by a vote of 50-49. The bill was modified from the House-passed version but still provides significant directed funding for afterschool and summer learning programs that support student success. The new version of the bill, which the Senate passed through the budget reconciliation process, now goes back to the House for final approval. The House is expected to pass it early next week. President Biden is then expected to quickly sign it into law. 

The Senate-passed version of the ARP provides $121.975 billion for Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) III grants to State Education Agencies (SEA) for PK-12 public schools, with 90% allocated to local educational agencies (LEAs), following the same terms and conditions for funds provided in fiscal year 2021 for the ESSER II Fund, which include afterschool and summer learning as allowable uses. The new version also adds implementation of full-service community schools as an allowable use of funds and adds summer enrichment in the examples of allowable activities to address learning loss. The bill includes the following provisions related to education and out of school time support:

  • Requires LEAs to reserve at least 20% of their ESSER III sub-grants (about $21.9 billion) to promote learning recovery including comprehensive afterschool programs and summer learning or enrichment programs. Extended school day, extended school year, and other strategies and interventions are also allowable. Activities provided should be evidence-based interventions that respond to students’ academic, social, and emotional needs, and address the impact of the coronavirus on low income students and students experiencing homelessness and children and youth in foster care.
    • LEA ESSER III, Total amount eligible for afterschool and summer programs: $21.9 billion
  • Requires SEAs to reserve at least 5% (estimated to be about $6.01 billion nationally) of new ESSER III allocations for grants and contracts to carry out activities to promote learning recovery including comprehensive afterschool programs and summer learning programs. Extended school day, extended school year, and other strategies and interventions are also allowable. Activities should be evidence-based interventions that respond to students’ academic, social, and emotional needs and address the impact of the coronavirus on low income students and students experiencing homelessness and children and youth in foster care.
    • SEA ESSER III, Total amount eligible for afterschool and summer programs: ~$6.01 billion
  • Requires SEAs to additionally reserve at least 1% (about $1.219 billion) to provide, directly or through grants and contracts, evidence-based summer enrichment programs that respond to students’ academic, social, and emotional needs and address the impact of the coronavirus on low income students and students experiencing homelessness and children and youth in foster care.
    • SEA ESSER III 1% reserve for summer enrichment: ~$1.219 billion
  • Requires SEAs to also reserve at least 1% (about $1.219 billion) to provide, directly or through grants and contracts, evidence-based comprehensive afterschool programs that respond to students’ academic, social, and emotional needs and address the impact of the coronavirus on low income students and students experiencing homelessness and children and youth in foster care.
    • SEA ESSER III 1% reserve for afterschool programs: ~$1.219 billion

The afterschool and summer learning fields are grateful to the many students, parents, providers, and other advocates that made their voices heard, and for the support of many bipartisan members of the House and Senate who have played a role over the past year in championing the need for out of school time funding to help students and families impacted by the pandemic. These include Senators Bennet (D-Col.), Murkowski (R-Alaska), Murphy (D-Conn.), Murray (D-Wash.),  Sanders (I-Vt.), and Smith (D-Minn.); and Representatives Bonamici (D-Ore.), Cicilline (D-R.I.), Courtney (D-Conn.), DeLauro (D-Conn.), Evans (D-Penn.), Fitzpatrick (R-Penn.), Kildee (D-Mich.), Scott (D-Va.), Van Drew (R- N.J.), Wild (D-Penn.), and Young (R-Alaska). Additionally we are grateful to the many local, state, and national organizations that have worked diligently for almost a year to make the case for support for local out of school time programs to be able to serve families and children during the pandemic. 

The bill also includes approximately $3 billion for the states to provide services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act as well as $2.75 million for non-public schools that will flow through Governor’s offices. Additionally during Senate floor consideration a bipartisan amendment offered by Senator Murkowski was approved, directing $800 million to identify and assist homeless youth, providing them with wrap around supports.

The bill modifies the House provisions related to maintenance of effort and maintenance of equity, with the intent to ensure higher-poverty LEAs and schools do not face disproportionate cuts. This amendment would change the methodology for determining which high-need LEAs, highest poverty LEAs, and high-poverty schools are protected under the maintenance of equity provision’s fiscal guardrails. Education funds within the ARP must be obligated within a year of the bill passing with rapid timeframes for funding going from the federal, to the state, to the local level. The bill requires all states to subgrant ESSER III funds to their LEAs, to the extent practicable, not later than 60 days after the State receives their funds. Funds can be spent until the end of September 2023.

These changes should ensure that all afterschool and summer learning providers, including community based organizations, nonprofits, faith-based organizations, local government (park and recreation departments and libraries), day and overnight camps, and other youth development organizations have access to much needed funding and support at the state level and great opportunities for partnerships with schools at the local level. The research is clear that afterschool and summer learning programs have a solid evidence base to effectively support students and help them with learning recovery and thrive. In 2019 the Wallace Foundation released reports on afterschool programs and summer learning programs that identified programs meeting the most rigorous evidence standards of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. Throughout the pandemic, out of school time programs have been at the forefront of supporting students and families through community learning hubs, in-person and virtual programming, providing meals, and more.

The ARP also provides support for the child care system and helps makes child care more affordable for families. The bill stabilizes the child care system by investing a total of $39 billion in child care, $15 billion through the Child Care and Development Block Grant Program (CCBDG) and $24 billion through a child care stabilization fund. Providers serving school-age children are eligible for these funds as well. Child care providers receiving funds must provide financial relief for families, to the extent possible. The Center for Law and Social Policy published an estimated breakdown of these funds by state, which can be accessed here.

Also included is $1 billion in new funds for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and the National Service Trust to support an increase in AmeriCorps volunteers to respond to communities impacted by COVID-19. This includes helping schools safely reopen and tackling the growing hunger crisis. Grants will be prioritized based on grantees located in and recruiting from communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and taking into account the diversity of communities and participants served by such entities, including racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, linguistic, or geographic diversity.

The package also includes $7 billion in emergency funding for the Federal Communications Commission’s E-Rate program to address the “homework gap” and lost opportunities to learn by equipping students and educators with internet access and devices for remote teaching and learning.

Of note, the bill also addresses the tragic surge in child hunger by preserving and expanding critical food assistance for children and families. The bill:

  • Maintains and expands the Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT) program by investing more than $5 billion in P-EBT so that low-income families have access to food assistance during both the school year and summer months.
  • Includes more than $800 million for the WIC program, which supports low-income women and infants, and boosts the value of WIC Cash Value Vouchers (CVV) for vulnerable mothers and children.
  • Temporarily expands the age of eligibility for the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) at emergency homeless shelters, to ensure more young adults can access needed nutrition support.

Lastly, the ARP includes $350 billion in state and local aid to help avoid further layoffs of educators and other essential public servants. The local and state government funds can also be used for child care and a wide range of activities and services.

After the legislation is signed into law, implementation by the Department of Education and other agencies as well as by SEAs at the state level will be critical in ensuring these funding resources are made available in a timely and efficient manner so that providers can act quickly to make programming available for young people. Look for additional information on the implementation process to be available soon.

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BY: Erik Peterson      06/01/21

Biden administration releases full FY 2022 budget proposal, increases afterschool funding

On May 28, the Biden administration released its full FY 2022 discretionary budget request, about six weeks after releasing an initial budget blueprint. With regard to education, the proposal includes $1.31 billion for the Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers, an increase of $52...

BY: Erik Peterson      05/28/21

The Biden administration’s American Family Plan – what it means for afterschool

In late April, President Joe Biden released the American Families Plan, the second part of an overall infrastructure proposal and a complementary piece to the American Jobs Plan. Congress is now holding bipartisan conversations to identify infrastructure priorities. The American Families...

BY: Erik Peterson      05/07/21

President Biden offers FY 2022 budget proposal

On April 9, the Biden administration released their preliminary (or “skinny”) FY 2022 discretionary budget request which includes topline appropriations levels for each agency as well as key spending priorities. With regard to education, the proposal includes historic funding requests...

BY: Erik Peterson      04/13/21

Biden administration proposes infrastructure plan including funds for schools, child care

In late March the administration announced the first part of its Build Back Better infrastructure plan. Called the American Jobs Plan, it would invest more than $200 billion in education and education-related infrastructure, including $100 billion for school construction and modernization, $12...

BY: Erik Peterson      04/12/21

American Rescue Plan: How will the funds flow? What do I need to do?

The American Rescue Plan provides $500 billion that can be used in part to support young people during the hours they are out of school. Funds specifically available for afterschool and summer programs in the Plan include:  $8.45B available from SEAs, including:  $1.22B...

BY: Erik Peterson      03/12/21

President Biden proposes American Rescue Plan including education funding

On Thursday, January 15, President-elect Biden proposed a $1.9 trillion COVID relief package called the American Rescue Plan which is described as “…the first step of an aggressive, two-step plan” to “change the course of the pandemic, build a bridge towards economic...

BY: Erik Peterson      01/20/21

President-elect Biden nominates Connecticut Education Commissioner Cardona for Sec. of Education

This week U.S. President-elect Joe Biden selected Connecticut education commissioner Miguel Cardona to serve as secretary of education. Commissioner Cardona is a former fourth-grade public school teacher who became the youngest principal in Connecticut and, later, an assistant superintendent of...

BY: Erik Peterson      12/23/20