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Advocacy & Policy Update - July 6, 2020



Infrastructure Bill

On Wednesday, July 1, the House passed the massive $1.5 trillion infrastructure package (HR 2 (116)), the Moving Forward Act, on a vote of 233-188. The legislation, which faces many hurdles and competing proposals in the Senate, includes $130 billion for school-related projects earmarked through attached legislation titled “Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act.” It also provides $100 billion in grants and $30 billion in bond authority for high-poverty schools that need upgrades to their buildings for safety. It requires schools to be rebuilt in compliance with some green standards and with American iron, steel and manufactured products. Congressman Bobby Scott (VA), Chair of the House Education and Labor Committee, had led the way on school funding legislation. States would be allocated funds in proportion to the funds that local education agencies receive under Title I and would also be required to match 10 percent of the funds within 10 years of the act. In addition, the bill requires that states have a public online database that outlines the condition of all public school facilities in the state. The fiscal 2020 program dollars would be focused on reopening schools in line with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention health guidelines and could be used to improve digital learning, including expanding access to high-speed broadband. Funding cannot be used for things like central offices, athletic stadiums or other buildings that are not primarily used for instruction but are mostly used for events where admission is charged to the general public. Funds also can't be used by public charter schools if the school leases the facilities from a private entity or is managed by a private entity with a direct or indirect financial interest.

On Wednesday, July 1, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) criticized the package, saying it had no chance in the Senate and he plans to stick with the plan of passing another relief bill later this month in the upper chamber. The White House has threatened to veto the package. On Tuesday, June 30, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY) and Senator Patty Murray (WA) released the Coronavirus Child Care and Education Relief Act (CCCERA) - a $430 billion proposal for child care, K-12 schools and higher education that included provisions that would bar the Administration from excluding undocumented college students from emergency funding.

Click here to access the Moving America Forward legislation.

Click here to read the press release on the CCCERA.

Fourth Coronavirus Relief Bill Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is hoping to pass a fourth and final coronavirus relief bill in the weeks after the July 4th recess. Democrats have been vocal about the need for another round of relief, with the House passing its own recovery package in mid-May, but Senate Republicans have dismissed the immediate need for legislation. One of the main points of disagreement between the two lies in the future of the extra $600 per week in unemployment benefits. Republicans feel that the program provides a disincentive to return to work.

Last week, 41 House Democrats wrote a letter to congressional leadership urging that historically black colleges and universities, minority-serving institutions, tribal colleges and universities and Hispanic-serving institutions be included in any future coronavirus relief package. The lawmakers argue that because these institutions are under-resourced, they may not be able to fully recover. The letter also suggests doubling the maximum Pell Grant award and canceling student loan debt up to at least $20,000 per borrower – citing higher financial need and higher loan default rates among minority students, and pushes for loan forgiveness for all types of federal loans including Federal Family Education Loans, Perkins Loans and private loans.

USCM Advocacy/Coalition Letter

On Tuesday, June 29, The United States Conference of Mayors, along with several partner organizations, signed onto a coalition letter urging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY) for more direct stimulus aid to help replace billions in lost revenue for "state and local governments to both rebuild the economy and maintain essential services in education, health care, emergency operations, public safety and more. The letter says states and local areas "experiencing historic budget shortfalls" because of the pandemic just before their budget years start on July 1. "If the Senate fails to act immediately to support state and local governments, our nation's recovery from the pandemic-induced recession will suffer and millions of Americans will needlessly be harmed," the groups wrote. The groups also said furloughs and job cuts are on the table, and government employment is suffering "substantial losses" with over 1.6 million jobs lost since March. 

Click here to read the full letter.

Appropriations Calendar

On Thursday, July 2, Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey told colleagues in a letter that she plans to hold subcommittee and full committee markups on FY21 spending bills during the weeks of July 6 and July 13, with floor votes as soon as the weeks of July 20 and July 27. On Tuesday, July 7, at 5:00 p.m. (ET) the House Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee will hold a markup of FY21 appropriations. On Wednesday, July 8, at 9:00 a.m. (ET) the House Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee will hold a markup of appropriations for FY21.

Click here to access the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education Subcommittee markup.

Click here to access the House Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee markup.

Pandemic Education Grants On Monday, June 29, the Trump Administration announced more than $300 million will be available for states hit hardest by the pandemic to apply for grants aimed at rethinking K-12 education and reimagining workforce preparation. Some of the funding, appropriated in the CARES Act, will be directed toward the ‘microgrants’ that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has called on Congress to fund to help disadvantaged students learn during the crisis. Application packages for the money will be available within two weeks. 

Jobs for Economic Recovery Act On Tuesday, June 30, Democratic senators introduced the Jobs for Economic Recovery Act, which would subsidize the creation or expansion of state and local-level employment programs. The bill would provide immediate funding for states, tribes, and local governments to create or expand employment programs through a new Social Security Act jobs program, which would finance six months of wages and benefits for public, private, or nonprofit jobs. Funds could also be used for job training and services like child care to help workers succeed upon completion of their job placement. By providing immediate funding for subsidized employment programs it would allow states to target individuals who have become unemployed or underemployed as a result of COVID-19, and create essential jobs to respond to the public health emergency. The bill also authorizes grants to nonprofit organizations to support similar programs and provides funding for technical assistance and planning.  Click here to learn more about the legislation.

House Education and Labor Committee Hearing On Tuesday, July 7, the House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Investment will hold the hearing "A Major Test: Examining the Impact of COVID-19 on the Future of Higher Education” at 12:00 p.m. (ET). Witnesses for the hearing include Sharon J. Pierce, President of Minneapolis College; Timothy P. White, Chancellor of  The California State University; Scott Pulsipher, President of  Western Governors University; and Shaun Harper, President of the American Educational Research Association.

Click here to access the hearing. Unemployment Rate

On Thursday, July 2, the Department of Labor (DOL) Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released the June jobs report, which shows payrolls increased by 4.8 million and the unemployment rate dropped from 13.3% to 11.1% but, due to continued misclassification of some unemployed persons, the rate should be 12.3%. Even when combined with May’s gain of 2.7 million jobs, there are an additional 14.5 million people out of work or over 9% of the labor force since February. Despite the positive job reports over the past two months, the unemployment rate and the number of unemployed people are still at worse levels than at any time during the Great Recession. The number of workers who have permanently lost their jobs rose - signaling that for an increasing number of Americans, getting back to work won’t be easy.

Click here to read the full report.

Click here to read the entire June 29 weekly legislative update.

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