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House of Representatives moving forward with additional federal pandemic relief package

Last week, several U.S. House committees finalized their respective pieces of a $1.9 trillion federal pandemic relief package modeled on President Biden’s American Rescue Plan. These efforts are part of a wider “budget reconciliation” process that would allow Congressional lawmakers to advance this legislation with simple majorities in both chambers (i.e., the House and Senate.)

As part of this effort the House Education and Labor Committee last week approved nearly $128 billion in additional emergency aid for preK-12 education on a party line 27-21 vote.  The Committee also released preliminary estimates regarding education funding in the proposed bill, including a state-by-state breakdown

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JFC directs $65 million in federal funds to districts in proportion to hours of in-person instruction

JFC directs $65 million in federal funds to districts in proportion to hours of in-person instruction

In what may well be an harbinger of a potentially contentious budget struggle over public school funding, the powerful GOP-led Joint Finance Committee (JFC) yesterday voted down, along party lines, a DPI plan to equitably distribute roughly $65 million in federal Coronavirus relief funds to schools (see previous blog post) and replace it with a plan that directs the funding to districts based on the extent to which they are providing in-person instruction.

Wisconsin state statute gives the JFC authority to review and object to the distribution of federal funds by the DPI if they reflect an increase of 5 percent or more above the federal funds indicated in the Chapter 20 appropriations schedule. No vote of the full Legislature nor approval by the governor is required.  

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Congress reaches deal on COVID-19 relief, government funding

Congress reaches deal on COVID-19 relief, government funding

Congressional leaders have reportedly struck a deal on a $900 billion COVID-19 relief package along with the 2020-21 budget and appropriations totaling $1.4 trillion and may be poised to pass the package today.

According to the National School Boards Association (NSBA), the legislation will include the following:

  • $54.3 billion dedicated to K-12 public schools
  • $4.05 billion for the Governor Emergency Relief Fund which includes a set-aside for private K-12 schools
  • $250 million for Head Start
  • $10 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant program
  • $3.2 billion in emergency funds for low-income families to access broadband through “an FCC fund” (i.e., a new program and not through the E-Rate program)
  • $1 billion tribal broadband fund
  • $65 million to complete broadband maps pursuant to the Broadband DATA Act approved earlier this year
  • New $300 million grant program to fund broadband in rural areas

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Bipartisan group unveils two-part $908 billion federal COVID relief package

With Congress facing a time crunch to approve both a federal budget deal and more federal COVID relief aid, a bipartisan group of lawmakers today (12/14) unveiled a two-part $908 billion COVID-19 relief package.

The first part would provide $748 billion to fund another round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) assistance for small businesses; an extension of unemployment benefits; and more money for schools, COVID testing, vaccine distribution and other widely agreed-upon items. 

The proposal is said to include $82 billion for education, an amount which includes $54 billion both K-12 education and $20 billion for colleges and universities. In addition, $7.5 billion is included for a Governor’s Fund.  Provisions earmarking some of this funding for private and parochial schools are also included in the bipartisan package, although details were not available at the time this post was written.

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Voluntary Payroll Tax Deferral Program available but not recommended

The President signed an executive order that was issued on August 8, 2020 that allows employers to participate in a voluntary program to defer withholding of the payroll tax attributable to social security (6.2%) on wages paid out between September 1 and December 31, 2020.

This voluntary program became effective yesterday (Sept. 1).

It is the WASB’s opinion that the employer has an option as to whether or not to opt into the program to defer the withholding and payment of the employee’s portion of the Social Security Tax.  Please see the information from the IRS that describes the guidance:

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End of August Wrap-Up Part 2: A look at at what’s happening at the federal level

USDA Extends Certain Federal School Meal Plan Waivers Through Dec. 31
Today (8/31), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it will extend certain federal school meal waivers that had been extended through August 2020 until the end of the current calendar year.  According to the USDA, the move means summer meal programs can continue operating as funding allows.  Preliminary news reports indicate this will permit schools to offer food to all kids, regardless of income or enrollment, through the end of 2020 “as funding allows.”  Among other things, the waivers announced today extend meal pattern waivers, congregate meal waivers and meal time waivers and allow parents to continue to pick up meals on weekdays and weekends from schools or other designated sites rather than only at schools. (more…)