Maui Business

Newly Signed Emergency COVID-19 Spending Bill Includes Hirono-Backed Education Priorities

December 28, 2020, 8:43 AM HST
* Updated December 29, 8:18 AM
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US Senator Mazie K. Hirono successfully advocated for education programs in the emergency coronavirus relief bill that will support K-12 schools, colleges and universities, and early childhood programs as they respond to COVID-19.

The bill also includes provisions from Sen. Hirono’s Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act to strengthen and expand the federal Pell Grant program and improve financial aid for students.

“Students and educators in Hawaiʻi and elsewhere need support as they continue to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. This legislation includes provisions I have worked on to strengthen and expand the federal Pell Grant program, which will improve college affordability for lower income students. It also includes funding to support K-12 schools, colleges and universities, and early childhood providers,” said Sen. Hirono. “While this bill provides much-needed funding, the scope of this pandemic means that we will need to take further action, and I stand ready to work with my colleagues to provide additional investments in education and child care.”

The legislation includes the following funding for education priorities; the Hawaiʻi-specific estimates below were calculated by the Congressional Research Service using data from the US Census Bureau and the US Department of Education:

K-12 Schools:

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·         $183.6 million for Hawaiʻi schools to address the pandemic’s consequences on K-12 schools, with flexibility to address learning loss for at-risk and marginalized students through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund. The legislation provides $54.3 billion in total funding for the ESSERF, and includes flexibility for schools to address learning loss in low-income students, children with disabilities, English learners, migrant students, students experiencing homelessness, and children in foster care. In October, Senator Hirono introduced the Learning Opportunity and Achievement Act, which provides funding for states, school districts, teachers, school leaders, and others to address learning loss due to COVID-19. She also cosponsored the Coronavirus Child Care and Education Relief Act, which included $175 billion for the ESSERF, and requirements to measure and address learning loss.

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·         $14.2 million for Hawaiʻi to support K-12 schools, colleges and universities, early childhood programs, and other programs through the Governors Emergency Education Relief Fund. The legislation provides $4.1 billion in total funding for the GEERF, which states can use to support students—including through innovation grants. CCCERA included $33 billion for the GEERF.

·         E-Rate: $3.2 billion to expand broadband connectivity for teachers and students across the country. 

Higher Education:

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·         $56.8 million to provide support for institutions of higher education in Hawaii and their students through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. The legislation provides $23.0 billion in total funding for the HEERF. 

·         Federal Pell Grant Program: Several parts of Senator Hirono’s Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act to strengthen and expand the Pell Grant program were included in the end-of-year package, including provisions to restore eligibility for incarcerated individuals, students who have been defrauded, and students with drug-related offenses, raise the “auto-zero” threshold, and increase the income protection allowance—improving the program for students. Earlier this year, Senator Hirono led a letter with 43 Senate colleagues requesting expanded eligibility and support for the Pell Grant program in Fiscal Year 2021.

·         Minority-Serving Institutions: Nationally, the bill included $1.7 billion for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges, and other MSIs—including Native Hawaiian-Serving Institutions like the University of Hawaii. Earlier this year, Senator Hirono led a letter with 18 colleagues requesting strong and continued support for HBCUs, TCUs, and other MSIs in Fiscal Year 2021.

Early Childhood:

·         $34.1 million for Hawaiʻi through the Child Care Development Block Grant. The total program funding is set at $10 billion for child care providers to promote healthy and safe learning environments for workers, students, and families, and to provide financial assistance for low-income families through CCDBG. Earlier this year, Senator Hirono led a letter with Senators Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and 39 other colleagues, requesting strong support for early childhood programs, including CCDBG, Head Start/Early Head Start programs, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act early childhood services, and Preschool Development Grants in Fiscal Year 2021.

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