This past Wednesday, the Biden administration announced that it plans to give $10 billion to schools in order to perpetuate the exp[nation of COVID-19 testing and hasten the reopening of classrooms.
The funds will be coming directly out of Biden’s recently signed COVID relief bill. Health and Human Services (HHS) put out a document that described the use of the money for testing. It also detailed the role of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in how they will give the funds to states to help them create new ways to test teachers, staff, and ultimately students.
Back in February, the CDC put forth a set of guidelines on school reopening and included specifications on testing as an added layer of protection against COVID-19 spread in schools. The CDC recommended the use of proactive diagnostic testing if someone showed any sign or symptom of being infected with the Coronavirus at school, as well as including screening testing at select locations in order to prevent potential spread.
The administration explained that the funding will roll out “quickly as part of a strategy to help get schools open in the remaining months of this school year.” The administration continued that on top of standard 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.”
Local and state health departments, with assistance from the CDC, will be helping schools in an effort to set up the new testing structures because many of these schools do not have any of these programs already in place.
The Department of Education also issued a detailed list of how $122 Billion of the newly passed COVID relief act would be allocated to each state in order to propagate the opening of schools. The money can be used to set up additional WI-Fi hotspots, hire new workers, fund programs like summer school, etc. They also state that it can be allocated 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 does not include the $10 billion specified earlier that the HHS is roping off for testing practices.
The Department of Education’s announcement brings up the importance of using these funds in order to promote and 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.”
In a press release this past Wednesday, Cardona stated, “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.”