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SENATE REPUBLICAN HEALS ACT PROVISIONS

Saturday, August 1, 2020  

SENATE REPUBLICAN HEALS ACT PROVISIONS

The following information came from ASBO International:

Earlier this week, bill text was released for Senate Republicans’ next COVID relief package proposal, the Health, Economic, Assistance, Liability Protection, and Schools (HEALS) Act. The $1 trillion package is comprised of several bills, which are summarized here

The bills/sections that deal with education and school employer-related provisions are:

  • The Safe to Work Act (text and summary)
    • Provides liability protection to health-care providers, schools, and employers that would limit lawsuits brought against them for COVID-19 exposure. Gross negligence would still be subject to legal claims.
  • The Safely Back to School and Back to Work Act (text and summary).
    • Simplifies student loan payments, provides child care grants to help centers reopen, and introduces a new scholarship/voucher program that would authorize a one-time emergency appropriation for scholarship granting organizations in each state for students to use for educational expenses, including private school tuition and home schooling expenses.
    • Gives ED waiver authority for ESSA, Rehabilitation Act, and Perkins/CTE requirements that are necessary and appropriate due to COVID-19. Provides modest flexibilities for IDEA to allow children to receive services as they transition from Part C to Part B.
    • Include Impact Aid provisions to allow school district to use their FY21 student counts for Impact Aid applications to mitigate inaccuracies in counts due to school closures and distance learning.
  • Coronavirus Response Additional Supplemental Appropriations Act 2020 (textsummary, and additional summary).
    • Appropriates $105 billion to help schools reopen. More info below.
  • The American Workers, Families, and Employers Assistance Act (text and summary).
    • Would reduce unemployment payments from $600/week to $200/week on top of what recipients would normally receive from states through Sept. In Oct., the 70% replacement would take effect up to a max of $500/week.
    • Second round of $1,200/person and $500/dependent stimulus checks.

The ASBO and AASA policy team are reviewing bill text, and our initial analysis is that this is a messaging bill, dead on arrival, and far apart from House and Senate Democrat proposals, so Congress will need to negotiate an agreement bill to vote on. Whatever the next COVID package looks like, it will not be this bill, but a synthesis of priorities from this proposal, as well as the HEROES Act and CCERA Act proposed by House and Senate Democrats. Please find education-specific highlights from the HEALS Act below:

  • Funding: The overall bill does not include any additional budget aid for state and local governments, which will likely be a top consideration in how much officials at that level cut their education budgets in response to the economic.
  • Topline funding level for education is $105 billion. 
    • $1 billion: Bureau of Indian Education and outlying areas
    • $5 billion: GEERF (Governor’s Fund)
    • $70 billion: ESSERF (K-12 education)
    • $29 billion: Higher ed
    • USED Secretary would have to disseminate money to states within 15 days of the bill becoming law. 
  • For K12 Funding (ESSER Fund)
    • Allocation: Would move to states based on overall population (60%) and on Title I share (40%)
    • Private schools would be eligible for all the same funding that public schools are eligible for as long as they meet the same re-opening criteria.
    • Allowable uses
      • For the 1/3 of funds automatically available, allowable uses appear to be broad and flexible, pretty similar to the CARES act, covering things like sanitation, purchasing ed tech, responding to the pandemic, etc….
      • For the conditional 2/3, includes additional flexibilities, like purchasing PPE, using flexible schedules to keep kids in isolated groups, buying boxed lunches, buying physical barriers, providing transportation, repurposing existing school rooms/space (including improving ventilation systems)  
    • Of the funding allocated to LEAs/private schools:
      • 1/3 would be available to all schools immediately; the remaining 2/3 would be available for reopening costs, with funding awarded based on certain minimum opening requirements (and other criteria established by the states)
      • For the conditional 2/3: If an LEA provides in-person instruction for at least ½ the students for at least ½ the days, their funding would be automatically approved. For LEAs with no in-person instruction, there would be no money. For LEAs that provide SOME in-person, $$ would be reduced/awarded on a pro-rata basis
        • An LEA’s plan must include a detailed timeline of when in-person instruction will occur, description of how many in-person instruction days/week are being offered, and an assurance the LEA will offer students as much in-person instruction as is safe and practicable.
    • Funding for private schools: SEAs must reserve a portion of the funds equal to the percentage of students enrolled in nonpublic K12 schools in the state prior to COVID (a la equitable services). In order to receive these funds, a private school must meet in-person requirements, though theirs differ from those of public schools.
    • Any private school offering in-person instruction for at least half of their students for half of the days would be eligible to receive the full share. Private schools offering no in-person instruction would only be eligible for 1/3 of the amount of assistance per student; LEAs that provide some in-person would receive their share on a pro-rata basis.
  • Other Education Policy Highlights:
    • Maintenance of Effort: States have to spend the same percentage of overall FY20/21 budgets on education as they did in FY19. Put another way, cuts to education are OK, so long as schools are cut at the same rate as other state programs. LEAs can pursue an MOE waiver. This is an improvement over CARES.
    • Liability: Provides a federal cause of action for COVID exposure claims against employers, including schools. The cause of action is the exclusive remedy for all claims against a defendant for personal injury caused by actual, alleged, feared or potential exposure to COVID. The bill covers coronavirus-related exposure injuries that occur between Dec. 1, 2019 and Oct. 1, 2024, and impacted parties would have to show LEAs were grossly negligent or demonstrated willful misconduct, and that they violated relevant state and local public health guidelines. 
    • Private Schools: In addition to the private school carve out in ESSERF, the bill authorizes (but does not fund) a brand new voucher program, the Education Freedom Scholarships. This is NOT a federal tax credit, it is a one-time appropriation and can be used on any educational expense (private school, homeschool, etc.) and states would be required to set up tax credit entities to receive this funding. 
    • Equitable Services: Language in how the new funds would be allocated is tighter than that of CARES. Does NOT include retroactive fix of CARES problem for CARES funding. 
    • Homework Gap: No funding for homework gap is included in the bill. Yes, it is an allowable use of the broader ESSERF fund, but that is nowhere near as flexible as CARES was and is already grossly oversubscribed.
    • IDEA Flexibility: Provides ZERO flexibility for IDEA.

Extra Resources and Recommended Reading:

STEELE BENEFITS WEBINAR – AUGUST 4

Trends in Care. Tuesday, August 4 at 9:30 EST. Primary care, on-site clinics, COVID-19 vaccinations, deferrals of care, and other timely discussions.  What’s trending in population health, healthcare delivery, and healthcare cost?  How is the experience of using the healthcare system different than it was six months ago?  What do we expect to see in healthcare delivery over the next year?  What is the employers’ role in providing tools for their workforce to make personal choices around their healthcare decisions?  This is a can’t miss discussion about trends in care with Kristin Vargo and Brian Norris from Marathon Health, formerly known as OurHealth.

Speakers:

Kristin Vargo, Marathon Health, Vice President – Business Development

Brian Norris, Marathon Health, Executive Vice President – Population Health

Click Here for Details