There has been much in the news about the proposed stimulus package entitled “The American Rescue Plan.” The House of Representative have just passed their version of the Bill and now it will be before the Senate in this coming week.
Many of the conversations have been about the minimum wage proposal, the unemployment benefits and the ever-famous stimulus checks. However, the plan has some provisions for schools that will be significantly important to reopen our schools.
One consistent belief is that schools follow their communities in terms of COVID-19 infections. There is a strong correlation between the community infection rates and their respective schools. We have just launched our third vaccine and have vaccinated over 72 million individuals. In addition, in the plan there will be approximately $8.7 billion in funding for vaccines, testing and PPE. This will assist communities towards herd immunity with projections showing that we will have enough vaccines for all Americans by late summer.
The plan contains around $130 billion in funds for K-12 schools. The money would go to school districts to pay for reducing class sizes to accommodate social distancing, improving ventilation, hiring more janitors and providing more personal protective equipment.
The bill would provide $350 billion to state and local governments whose coffers have been hit by a loss of tax revenue during the pandemic, causing many to plan cuts to services and warn of tax increases to allow them to balance their budgets. Some of the essential services such as mental health clinics, drug rehabilitation and related systems of care will receive some additional funding which will provide support for the traumatic effects and stressors from the COVID-19 virus.
One of the objections towards reopening schools safely is that fact that many teachers feel extremely vulnerable with poorly ventilated buildings, poor testing availability and vaccines for all teachers. It appears that the American Rescue Plan will address several of the issues related to safety for our teachers and our students. It will certainly give teachers more confidence to return to the classroom without worry about health consequences.
Any stimulus package of this nature will be scrutinized. However, if we are going to provide safe environments for both students and teachers, it appears this plan will be a huge asset to move our schools towards a safe reopening and the hope of some sense of normalcy by September. It has been a year since we have felt that normalcy so it will be a significant difference that all of these initiatives are funded so there can be hope for students, parents and school staff. I appreciate that all these factors have been considered in this important stimulus package. I look forward to its passage and nationwide implementation.