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Congressman Supports Updating Infrastructure for Schools

  • Massachusetts Democrat Richard Neal was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1988 and has cast numerous votes on legislation during his 33 years in Congress. However, the congressman believes his most important and consequential vote is the one he recently cast to approve the American Rescue Plan (ARP), which was signed into law by President Joe Biden last month.  

    “This was a seismic step forward, helping the American people who have suffered for too long through the [COVID-19] pandemic,” Neal told urban educators at the Council of the Great City Schools’ recent, virtual Annual Legislative/Policy Conference. “I am proud of colleagues for stepping up in this moment and delivering on the promise that we made to the American people.”

    He listed the benefits of the $1.9 trillion legislation, including an expansion of the child tax credit and the establishment of a pandemic emergency fund to provide emergency assistance for low-income families with children. The congressman believes both of these measures will lift millions of Americans and their children out of poverty. Richard Neal

    “The pandemic emergency fund will help Americans remain housed, pay bills, afford diapers, groceries, access to the internet for school and work, and care for their children,” said Neal.

    A former teacher and school board member, Neal acknowledged the human and economic toll the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on the country and noted that the consequences have been deeply felt at the local level, particularly in school districts. He thanked urban school superintendents, school board members, and educators for the incredible work they have been doing to help students stay afloat.

    “I should say my heart is with those of you who administer to these communities in our school systems,” said Neal. “I feel deeply for the millions of students that have been forced to stay at home to be safe, as well as parents, teachers, and school administrators that have been compelled to navigate this new immensely stressful reality.”

    Addressing Infrastructure Needs

    Neal is the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and believes that Congress has a strong ally in the White House to help solve the country’s problems, particularly those related to its infrastructure.

    “Our nation’s infrastructure has long been in need of action,” said Neal, noting that a national infrastructure plan will be especially essential for big cities, which have the oldest and most overcrowded school buildings in the country. 

    “As the nation looks to reopen schools, post-pandemic, the need for updated infrastructure for schools is now more pertinent than ever,” said Neal; and with state and local deficits looming, the nation's oldest and most overcrowded school facilities must find the resources to reopen safely.

    According to the congressman, this can happen only by addressing aging ventilation systems; reconfiguring spaces to address social distancing; and upgrading water, electrical, and other building systems to provide safe, modern and equitable learning environments for students and teachers. 

    He recalled that nearly one year ago in March 2020 Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help school systems fund a wide range of activities, including cleaning and sanitizing, purchasing educational technology such as laptops and hotspot devices, training educators to use online learning tools, ensuring access to education for students with disabilities, and providing students with emergency funding for food, housing, and other basic essentials.

    Neal said the effects of the ARP funds will soon be felt in schools and communities across the country and that the success of students today will lead to the success of the country tomorrow. “We have a duty to ensure we're doing everything in our power to make sure they are supported, especially during this time,” said Neal. “Working together, I know we can achieve that goal and uplift the next generation.”