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Legislative Column

  • Twisting in the Wind


    Jeff Simering, Director of Legislation


    President Trump unexpectedly pulled the plug on high-level negotiations for a new round of coronavirus relief legislation following his release from Walter Reed Medical Center. After calling for everyone to “work together” on  a stimulus bill  and “get it done” three days before, President Trump withdrew the Administration’s negotiators from compromise discussions on a trillion dollar-plus recovery package once he was back at the White House. A few hours later, however, the President reversed course once again and identified three stimulus initiatives that he would support. To date, schools, first responders, health care providers, small businesses, other hard-hit industries, restaurants, financial markets, and families are still left twisting in the wind.

    Pleas for further economic stimulus from governors, mayors, county executives, superintendents, university presidents, business leaders, as well as from the chairman of the Federal Reserve, have gone unheeded. High unemployment levels, an historic economic downturn, surges in COVID-19 infections, and increased poverty and food insecurity have not produced any compromise legislation from Congress over the past six months. The nation’s K-12 schools have been particularly shortchanged with only $13 billion in direct funding out of $3 trillion approved in four federal relief measures enacted in March and April -- a mere 0.43 percent. Additionally, public schools are facing crippling reductions in both state and local revenue.

    With the House reducing its HEROES Act request from an initial $3.4 trillion to $2.2 trillion and the White House countering with $1.6 trillion (in contrast to the Senate’s lower $1.1 trillion in the HEALS Act), the framework for an agreement seemed within reach until the President scuttled the talks.   

    Public schools are expected to meet the needs of their student population despite the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic. Is it too much to expect that our elected federal leaders would similarly meet the critical needs of the nation?