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Cassidy Warns Education Department Against Establishing Arbitrary Threshold in COVID Funds for Low Income Students at Private Schools

Sen. Bill Cassidy

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) urged Education Secretary Miguel Cardona against the creation of an arbitrary threshold for private schools in the use of their COVID relief funds. In December 2020, Cassidy led efforts to make sure make sure dedicated funding were available for private and parochial school relief in the form of the Emergency Assistance to Non-public Schools (EANS) Program. The $2.75 billion made available through EANS ensured that services and assistance related specifically to COVID were prioritized for schools that “enroll low-income students and are most impacted by the qualifying emergency.”

The American Rescue Plan Act, which was passed along partisan lines last month, provided a second round of EANS funding. This funding included a new provision that assistance was for schools that enroll a “significant percentage” of low-income students. Now, the Department of Education is trying to determine what “significant percentage” means.

“More than a year since the start of the pandemic, these same private and parochial schools are shining examples of how to safely bring students back to the classroom without risking outbreaks of COVID on campus. While many public schools have remained closed, private and parochial schools have kept their doors open, serving the students in their community, regardless of the financial costs necessary to reopen safely,” wrote Dr. Cassidy. “If an arbitrary threshold is established, there will be schools that serve low-income students but do not qualify because they are one or two percentage points under the cutoff point, despite having significant COVID-related needs that could otherwise be met through services and assistance provided by this funding.”

Cassidy urged Secretary Cardona “ensure that the funding provided in EANS II does not restrict eligibility based on an arbitrary percentage threshold and that states are given maximum flexibility in how they determine eligibility for COVID-related services and assistance.”

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