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Education and Mental Health in President-Elect Biden's American Rescue Plan
On January 20, 2021, Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States as a global health crisis rages on. Although the recent rollout of vaccines for the COVID-19 virus may promise an eventual end to this pandemic, our students and schools are still in dire need of relief now and assistance toward future recovery. For that reason, NASP is pleased to see the incoming Presidential administration release their proposed COVID package outlining $1.9 trillion in funding and support to help schools, families, and communities. You can read the full outline of President-Elect Biden’s American Rescue Plan here. See below for a few highlights that impact students, educators, and mental health professionals.
Ensure Schools Have the Resources They Need to Reopen Safely
President-elect Biden’s plan invests over $400 billion in national COVID-19 vaccination, testing, tracing, treatment, and paid sick leave so that schools may safely reopen. NASP maintains that the decision to open schools should be a collaborative effort between local public health agencies and school districts, and we are encouraged that the incoming Biden administration recognizes the financial investments necessary to ensure schools have the resources they need to safely reopen.
The American Rescue Plan further promises $130 billion to help K–12 schools safely reopen. These funds can be used to modify classrooms for safer use, provide personal protective equipment, and increase transportation for safer travel. The plan also emphasizes the academic, mental health, social, and emotional needs of students, which has been a priority for NASP. K–12 funds in the American Rescue Plan can be used to hire counselors to support students as they transition back into the classroom, provide additional class time to account for learning loss, and create and expand community schools. Biden’s plan prioritizes equity in delivery so that students in low-income communities that were hardest hit by COVID-19 are protected during reopening.
An additional $5 billion in funds will be allotted to governors to support the learning needs of students significantly impacted by COVID-19 in K–12, higher education, or early childhood programs.
Expanding Access to Healthcare and Behavioral Health Services
The President-Elect’s plan also recognizes the importance of mental health and substance use disorder services during a national public health crisis. His plan directs Congress to provide $4 billion to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Health Resources and Services Administration to expand access to their services.
The American Rescue Plan includes additional support for workers, small businesses, childcare providers, first responders, and more. I encourage advocates to read the full plan and contact your members of Congress to explain how the American Rescue Plan could help you, your school, and your community. For more guidance on effective advocacy, check out NASP’s Policy Playbook and bookmark the Policy Matters Blog as the 117th Congress and the Biden Administration get underway.
NASP is engaged with the transition team, members of the incoming administration, and key members of Congress to address the critical issues facing our education system. We will continue to keep you informed of key policy proposals and opportunities to make your voice heard. We have tremendous opportunity and we will need an all hands on deck approach to ensure we meet our policy goals for pandemic recovery and beyond.