President Donald Trump signed a third coronavirus relief package called the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act or CARES Act into law March 27. The 335-page bill contains benefits that could directly or indirectly benefit educators, as well specific provisions to provide funding and support for education.
Financial assistance for individuals
The CARES Act provides for a one-time cash rebate or “economic impact” payment to eligible individuals. The federal government is expected to begin issuing the payments in April in amounts outlined as follows:
- $1,200 to each individual earning below $75,000 per year, or $2,400 for married couples earning below $150,000. (Individuals earning up to $99,000 or married couples earning up to $198,000 will be eligible for smaller payments.)
- In addition to the individual credit above, up to $500 per qualifying child.
The income calculation will be based on your 2019 tax return, if you’ve already filed it, or your 2018 tax return if not. Individuals earning Social Security benefits and/or government pensions are also eligible.
The IRS has developed a dedicated webpage answering FAQs about the rebate. In addition, the Washington Post has created a calculator to estimate your rebate amount.
The CARES Act also provides approximately $260 billion for enhanced unemployment benefits.
The CARES Act contains:
- $13.5 billion in funding for K-12 education, available through formula grants to states, 90% of which is to be distributed through the Title I formula to local school districts for use in dealing with the effects of the coronavirus. Additional funding will be available to states to provide emergency support grants to the local school districts most significantly affected by the pandemic.
- $8.8 billion in additional funding for child nutrition.
- $3.5 billion for the Child Care Development Block Grant program, and $750 million in emergency funding for Head Start.
- $25 million to improve distance learning and telemedicine in rural communities, plus another $100 million in funding for the ReConnect program that helps provide broadband access for distance learning and teleworking in rural areas.
- Authorization for the U.S. Secretary of Education to waive numerous testing, accountability, and funding mandates. Texas has already applied for and received a waiver of the federal testing and accountability requirements of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Education Secretary Betsy DeVos also has 30 days from the date of the bill’s signing to request additional waiver authority from Congress for other provisions in federal education laws, such as the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA).
- Flexibility for school districts to expand usage of existing federal funds to support technology infrastructure improvements and training to help teachers providing remote instruction.
Higher education provisions
The CARES Act:
- Most notably, temporarily defers payments and interest for federal student loans.
- Eases rules allowing a student to withdraw from school due to a qualifying emergency, including waiving the requirement to return federal grant assistance such as Pell Grants and cancelling the obligation to repay federal direct loans.
- Allows higher education institutions to continue paying students in federal work-study programs who are no longer able to work.
- Allows the U.S. Secretary of Education to provide relief to TEACH Grant recipients who are unable to fulfill their service obligations by counting interrupted service as full-time.