President Joe Biden announced the release of $81 billion in funding from the Covid-19 relief law for school reopening Wednesday, part of the administration’s efforts toward getting the majority of schools opened in his first 100 days in office and addressing inequity caused by the pandemic.
“I’m really proud to announce that starting today, states will begin receiving nearly $130 billion in school funding that we included in the American Rescue Plan. In fact, $81 billion of those dollars will be arriving today to those schools,” Biden said during a virtual summit on school reopening hosted by the Department of Education.
Biden called on states to take the next steps.
“I need states to move quickly to get these resources down to the school districts and put them to work,” he said.
The administration is releasing funding for schools as part of the $1.9 trillion Covid relief package to all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, on Wednesday. The bill included $122 billion in relief for pre-K to 12 schools, and two-thirds of those funds – totaling $81 billion – “will be made available to states immediately,” the Department of Education said in a statement.
Biden's First 100 Days
The funds will “support their efforts to get students back in the classroom safely for in person learning, keep schools open once students are back, and address the academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs of all students,” the department said.
The additional one-third of funding “will become available after states submit the plans they are developing and implementing for using (emergency relief) funds to safely reopen schools and meet the needs of students to the department.”
Biden reiterated his message that “help is here.”
“Help is here for schools to purchase PPE, hire additional personnel like nurses, counselors, custodial staff, improve ventilation and sanitation, avoid devastating layoffs and give students extra support,” he said. “Help is here to help students make up for lost time and lost learning. Unless we act quickly, this pandemic could have a devastating long-term impact on our kids who have gone through this, including on their mental health.”
Part of the funding for schools will be used to address educational inequity that has only been exacerbated by the pandemic, with Education Secretary Miguel Cardona outlining inequity in the return to in-person learning.
“Only 28% of Black students are going to school in-person daily, 33% of Latino students are doing it,” Cardona said during the summit. “Fifteen percent of our Asian students are going to school in-person daily. That’s compared to half of White students that are going daily throughout our country.”
One specific measure aimed at bridging the gaps and addressing inequity is summer learning and enrichment opportunities, with Biden calling on states, school districts and community partners to work together on the matter.
“This is essential for all students, particularly those disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, students of color, English learners, students with disabilities, homeless students, and all those who went without in-person instruction this year. The rescue plan provides the resources schools need to do this,” Biden said.
CNN’s Elizabeth Stuart contributed to this report.