The Education Trust Midwest’s Statement on COVID Relief and Year-End Funding Package
“The year-end package passed by Congressional leadership provides for the continued funding of critical government programs and will ensure that early learning providers, schools, colleges and universities across the country can support students and operate during what may be the darkest months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We applaud important initiatives that will reduce food insecurity, help to stabilize the child care system, and increase access to higher education. The package includes a temporary increase to SNAP benefits, a temporary expansion of SNAP to eligible college students, and easier access to Pandemic EBT benefits for low-income children aged 0-5. Early childhood providers will also receive important stabilization funding in the amount of $10 billion.
“The approved package also overturns the misguided 1994 federal ban on Pell Grants for students who are incarcerated, unlocking the doors of opportunity for our nation’s students who are incarcerated to access a quality higher education. More than two million incarcerated individuals will now be eligible for a Pell Grant and assured access to high-quality programs.
“Furthermore, the package increases the Pell Grant to allow it to keep pace with inflation and would restore Pell eligibility for defrauded and misled students. The provisions that allow for a dramatic simplification of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will direct more financial aid to more students from low-income backgrounds and students of color, and also make the form more equitable by eliminating Question 23, a question used to prevent students with drug-related convictions from accessing student aid. The package also helps alleviate budgetary concerns facing HBCUs during a time of extreme financial strain.
“While the bill brings critical support to our nation’s schools and students through an allocation of $82 billion for schools and colleges, state and federal funding for education remains insufficient. We encourage our federal and state leaders to continue to act with great urgency to bring additional relief for schools to avoid compounding challenges already facing students during this pandemic, especially low-income students and students of color who were already underserved.”