The passage of $2.2 trillion in federal economic aid in response to the COVID-19 outbreak includes a condition that school districts nationwide must continue to pay its employees and contractors during school closures in order to receive their share of the funds.
H.R. 748, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, unanimously passed the Senate early Thursday morning by a 96-0 vote and was approved by the House on Friday. President Donald Trump is expected to sign the resolution.
Excerpt from H.R. 748:
continued payment to employees
Sec. 18006. A local educational agency, State, institution of higher education, or other entity that receives funds under “Education Stabilization Fund”, shall to the greatest extent practicable, continue to pay its employees and contractors during the period of any disruptions or closures related to coronavirus.
The package includes an earmark of $13.5 billion, or nearly 44 percent of the total $30.75 billion education stability fund portion of the stimulus, to elementary and secondary education schools. Section 18006 states that a condition of receiving those funds requires school districts to continue paying their school employees and contractors, including those that operate school bus services.
“NSTA heard from many of its members that school districts may not feel empowered to act unilaterally, and [members] were seeking guidance on making continued payments to school bus contractors and others,” said NSTA Executive Director Curt Macysyn Thursday afternoon. “This bill provides that guidance, as the clear legislative intent is for schools and school districts to continue to pay its employees, and to maintain relationships with and continue to pay its contractors throughout the conclusion of the school closures related to the COVID-19 health crisis.
“Maintaining these relationships allows contractors to continue to pay their employees, and stay solvent, and will provide reassurances to the districts that the contractors will have the staff to be able to start up service again when it is needed.”
The bill provides relief to hundreds of thousands of school bus drivers, mechanics, dispatchers and office support staff nationwide, added NSTA.
The association called on Senate and House leadership last week to ensure a coronavirus stimulus package would include the directive or provide a $2.8 billion bailout to keep school bus contractors afloat. NSTA said it also worked closely with U.S. governors, state departments of transportation and education, Congress, and the Trump Administration on the resolution.
Previously, NSTA made a similar request to all 50 governors and to U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, namely that school districts be required to continue payments. California, Illinois and Minnesota responded by issuing guidance to districts that they needed to continue funding student transportation employees and contractors.
Related: NSTA Requests States Continue Funding Student Transportation Amid COVID-19 Closures
Related: Congress Asked to Ensure School Bus Contractor Payments or Fund Bailout
Related: Illinois Districts to Continue Paying School Bus Contractors During Coronavirus Closures
Related: COVID-19 Resources for Student Transporters