The Biden administration announced on Wednesday that it plans to give $10 billion to schools in order to help them expand COVID-19 testing and reopen classrooms.
The funds come from Biden’s recently-passed COVID relief bill. Health and Human Services (HHS) put out a statement that described the use of the money for testing. It detailed how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will give the funds to states to help them create ways to test teachers, staff, and students.
The CDC put forth guidelines on school reopening in February and included specifications on testing as an added layer of protection against COVID-19 spread in schools. The CDC recommended that schools use diagnostic testing if someone is showing symptoms of being infected with COVID-19 at school, as well as incorporating screening testing at some locations in order to prevent a potential spread.
The statement from the administration explains that the funding will be sent out “quickly as part of a strategy to help get schools open in the remaining months of this school year.” It adds that on top of diagnostic testing, “serial screening testing will help schools identify infected individuals without symptoms who may be contagious so that prompt action can be taken to prevent further transmission.” The CDC, as well as local and state health departments, will assist schools in the effort to set up the testing structures since many schools might not have these programs in place.
The Department of Education also released a detailed list of how $122 billion of the COVID relief act would be allocated to each state for schools to reopen. The funds can be used for more Wi-Fi hotspots, hiring workers, funding programs including summer school, and more. It can also be allocated in order to create ways “to meet the social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs of students hit hardest by the pandemic, including through evidence-based interventions and critical services like community schools.” The $122 billion going to schools does not include the $10 billion HHS is providing for testing.
The Department of Education’s announcement also comments on the importance of using the funds in order to increase equity. It stated that Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona “underscored the importance of advancing equity in states’ efforts to reopen schools quickly and safely.” American Rescue Plan funds can be used in order to “equitably expand opportunities for students who need the funds most, including students from low-income backgrounds, students of color, students with disabilities, English learners, students experiencing homelessness, and students with inadequate access to technology.”
On top of the $122 billion funding for schools, The Department of Education said that the COVID relief bill “includes $7.6 billion for special education, children and youth experiencing homelessness, Tribal educational agencies, Native Hawaiians, and Alaska Natives, emergency assistance to non-public schools, and the Outlying Areas (American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands), as well as $40 billion for higher education.”
In a press release on Wednesday, Cardona said, “The extraordinary steps the department is taking to get these resources to states quickly will allow schools to invest in mitigation strategies to get students back in the classroom and stay there, and address the many impacts this pandemic has had on students — especially those disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.”