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Federal Guidance Issued on Stimulus Funds

Last week the U.S Treasury released federal guidance pertaining to how state and local governments can use funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, or ARP stimulus dollars. The announcement also indicates the $350 billion allocation from the stimulus package can be accessed by states in the coming days. This guidance had been long-awaited by policymakers in Harrisburg since the ARP passed in March as it is a key piece needed to complete the state budget puzzle nearing its June 30th deadline.

States are required to obligate the funds, which total $195 billion for those entities and $55 billion for local entities, by December 31, 2024. Pennsylvania’s state coffers stand to gain nearly $7.3 billion in direct aid.

The guidance is broad in its construct and notes the usage of funds for the following purposes:

  • “Support public health expenditures, by funding COVID-19 mitigation efforts, medical expenses, behavioral healthcare, and certain public health and safety staff;
  • Address negative economic impacts caused by the public health emergency, including economic harms to workers, households, small businesses, impacted industries, and the public sector;
  • Replace lost public sector revenue, using this funding to provide government services to the extent of the reduction in revenue experienced due to the pandemic;
  • Provide premium pay for essential workers, offering additional support to those who have borne and will bear the greatest health risks because of their service in critical infrastructure sectors; and,
  • Invest in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure, making necessary investments to improve access to clean drinking water, support vital wastewater and stormwater infrastructure, and to expand access to broadband internet.”

While the breadth of the guidance may give legislative leaders in the state capitol building the flexibility needed to bring a budget to closure, such latitude may also play into the ongoing and prolonged negative tenor between Republican leaders and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration This could prompt the General Assembly to be cautious in its approach to allocating significant funds at this time. Reports from the legislature also continue to reinforce a modest approach to the FY 2021-22 budget with the potential of flat-funding many or most line-items.

The guidance also prompted specific instructions around the allocation of funds of particular interest to PPC, including:

Home visiting: Of the $150 million in funds the ARP contained for evidence-based home visiting services only $40 million was released: Pennsylvania’s current state share is an estimated $1.3 million. Amounts were determined by a state’s share of its base MIECHV funding and a calculation of COVID impact. Current MIECHV awardees have been notified of the total for which they can apply, with a second round of grants expected early in federal fiscal year 2022. More information can be found on the federal HRSA website. PPC has reached out to the Office of Child Development and Early Learning to gauge further communication to the field in the state.

Child care: Guidance was released only for the funds pertaining to the child care stabilization grants made available through the ARP (about $24 billion in funding with nearly $730 million allocated for Pennsylvania). More information is expected to be forthcoming related to the direct funding for the Child Care Development Block Grant totaling about $15 billion with $455 million slated for Pennsylvania. The guidance requires states to use 90 percent of the funds to support the stability of the child care sector and allowable expenses include: operating costs like wages and benefits, rent and utilities, and cleaning and sanitization supplies. The remaining 10 percent can be appropriated for administrative expenses and technical assistance. Read the guidance related to the stabilization funds.

Child welfare: The Administration for Children and Families published further detail on funding in the ARP for the Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention Program (CB-CAP) and the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) state grants. Total federal funds for the programs amounted to $350 million; Pennsylvania’s state share is $12.35 million. Program details note the funds should be used to look at structural issues in the child welfare system in addition to promoting child well-being, including looking at race equity and intersections with poverty.

Education: Last week, the Wolf Administration announced more details on their intent to distribute $4.9 billion in education funding to schools. This included information on limited amounts of discretionary dollars and where those resources will be targeted. PPC is happy to report that career and technical education centers will be receiving a portion of Pennsylvania’s share of ARP funds for education. It was previously known that 90 percent of the funding, $4.5 billion, would be allocated to public schools and charters proportional to their Title I-A funds in the Every Student Succeeds Act for 2020. Schools can begin applying this month and are encouraged to do so by September. More details on the distribution of education funding can be found on the Department of Education’s website.


Children and teens ages 12 and older approved for Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines

On May 12th the CDC adopted the agency’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ (ACIP) unanimous recommendation to expand the administration of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines to adolescents 12 to 15 years of age. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, this would include 550,000 Pennsylvania youth.

Another key aspect of CDC’s recent guidance was that co-administration of COVID-19 vaccines and other vaccines may be administered without regard to timing (i.e., waiting 14 days before or after administration of a vaccine). This is especially important as data during COVID indicated a drop in routine vaccinations for children and adolescents, who would then have to catch up to protect against influenza, meningitis and human papillomavirus (HPV) before summer sports/activities and the start of next school year when most will be back to in-person learning.

This important topic of routine and recommended vaccinations was also elevated last week by U.S. Senator Bob Casey  during the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) committee prior to the CDC action. In the video posted above, scroll to time-stamp 1:05:45 to hear his full exchange with CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

Stay tuned, as we hope to learn more in the near future from our state Department of Health on immunization rates and how they have been tracking during the pandemic since we released a fact sheet on the topic last fall.


PPC Submits Comments on Child Care Development Fund State Plan

Pennsylvania’s Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) recently released the Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) state plan for Fiscal Years 2022-24. This plan details how OCDEL plans to administer the CCDF program over the next two years. A public hearing on the plan is being held virtually today, May 18. OCDEL’s plan to the federal Office of Child Care is due July 1, 2021.

PPC submitted comments on the state plan regarding how the state shares data with organizations and ensuring Pennsylvania is meeting the needs of families and providers through access to high-quality child care. We also suggested OCDEL strengthen and further clarify how it promotes accessibility and equity throughout the child care system. OCDEL explained how it will ensure families and providers will be supported throughout the next two years in various areas, such as financial stability and access.

PPC looks forward to reviewing any revisions made within the state plan and continuing our advocacy to ensure all Pennsylvania families have access to affordable high-quality child care for their children.

There were 24,665 children served in Pennsylvania’s foster care system in 2019. The largest population of children was ages 0-5, which is the most vulnerable age group. However, almost one-third of the population is made up of transition age youth, or older youth transiting to adulthood. Placing children in a family-based setting is the best option for a child, preferably if they are placed with a relative or someone with whom they already have an established relationship. As we celebrate National Foster Care Month, we thank those caregivers who step in and step up to care for children when they cannot safely remain with their primary caretakers.

Save the Date! PPC’s annual State of Child Welfare report will be released in June.


Request for Applications Announced for Pre-K Counts Providers

The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) and Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) announced a competitive request for applications (RFA) for providers of Pennsylvania’s Pre-K Counts program. This RFA will be used by OCDEL to disperse available state expansion funding to select eligible grantees starting in FY 2021-22 to serve and enroll 3- and 4-year-old children in the Pre-K Counts program beginning in September 2021. Guidance was released to assist providers in submitting the required documentation to apply. Letters of Intent are due by Thursday, June 10th and the full application is due by Wednesday, June 30th. Eligible applicants include existing Pre-K Counts grantees and new applicants from these eligible categories:

  • School districts;
  • PDE-licensed nursery schools;
  • Head Start grantees;
  • Child care centers and group child care homes designated at Keystone STAR 3 or STAR 4; and
  • Any third party entity applying for Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts funding to administer the lead agency responsibilities for entities that are eligible to provide the classroom services under the categories listed.

Pre-K Counts was established in 2007 with the goal of expanding the number of children across the Commonwealth that have access to high-quality, publicly funded pre-k. The program allows eligible families making up to 300% of the Federal Poverty Level to access pre-k education in their county.

Pre-k is a bipartisan-supported early care and education program that ensures Pennsylvania children enter kindergarten ready to learn. In the 2021-22 state budget, Gov. Wolf proposed an increase of $25 million for Pre-K Counts to serve more eligible children, in addition to a $5 million increase for the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program. Currently, 64% of eligible children do not have access to high-quality, publicly funded pre-k in Pennsylvania.

Read PPC’s policymaker brief summarizing the University of North Carolina’s study on the efficacy of Pennsylvania’s Pre-K Counts program.


Education Committee Approves Bills on Mandate Waivers, Learning Loss and More

The Senate Education Committee approved seven bills last week dealing with a broad range of educational issues, including allowing school districts to apply for waivers from certain mandates, establishing dual enrollment for charter and cyber charter schools, and addressing learning loss from COVID-19:  

  • Senate Bill 73 (Langerholc): Would reinstitute a mandate waiver program like the program that operated from 2000 to 2010. It would allow public schools in the Commonwealth to apply to the Department of Education for a waiver of many state-imposed mandates. PDE can approve a waiver if the public school can prove that its instructional program will improve or the school will operate in a more effective, efficient or economical manner.
  • Senate Bill 664 (Corman): Would give parents the option to have their child repeat a grade level during the 2021-22 school year due to COVID-19 to help address any lost educational opportunities during the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years, regardless of whether a child has met the requirements to be promoted to the next grade level. The bill would also allow parents the option to extend special education enrollment due to COVID-19; specifically allowing these students, who may have reached 21 years of age on or after the issuance of the proclamation of disaster emergency, to continue to be enrolled in school for remainder of 2021-22 school year. The bill was voted out of the Senate Appropriations Committee and unanimously passed by the Senate last Wednesday, and now moves  to the full House for consideration.
  • Senate Bill 237 (Bartolotta): Would allow charter schools, regional charter schools and cyber charter schools to offer dual enrollment programs to students. A dual enrollment program allows high school students to enroll in concurrent college courses through an institution of higher education.
  • Senate Bill 351 (Langerholc): Establishes the Community Engaged Schools for Success pilot program, which would connect students and their families with community-based organizations that address both academic and nonacademic barriers to learning. Under the program, schools could be designated as a Community Engaged School by the state Secretary of Education.
  • House Bill 365 (Harkins): Would remove derogatory and outdated terms to describe students that were included when the PA Public School Code was passed in 1949. The state Department of Education supports efforts to remove derogatory terms that stigmatize students.
  • House Bill 412 (Gleim): Would allow an individual with an inactive certification who is not an annuitant to be employed as a substitute teacher for up to 120 days during a school year instead of up to 90 days. The bill also allows for an individual holding a day-to-day substitute permit to serve for more than one assignment. Finally, this bill eliminates the sunset date for prospective teachers to substitute teach.
  • House Bill 416 (Quinn): Would enable all school personnel to be trained in seizure recognition and response by an approved Department of Health online course and make the completion of such a course creditable for professional continuing education credit.

PPC will continue to monitor these bills and others as we anticipate the announcement of a public school code bill that will need to be passed along with the state budget bills.


Reminder: Visit the Newly-Launched Thriving PA Website!

PPC recently launched Thriving PA, a non-partisan, statewide campaign that seeks to improve the quality of and increase equitable access to a coordinated system of health supports, including access to comprehensive perinatal health services, children’s health insurance, nutrition supports and lead screening and abatement.

Check out the Thriving PA website and please give us a follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!


In Case You Missed It...

  • Start Strong PA is asking for child care providers and the families they serve to take a survey to help the campaign make recommendations on how Pennsylvania should spend the historic funds for child care through the American Rescue Plan.
  • The New York Times published an article, The Power of Pre-K, which highlights the positive impacts of children in Boston who attended pre-k and those who did not. Some of the documented impacts included pre-k participants were less likely to be sentenced to juvenile incarceration, more likely to graduate high-school, and more likely to take SAT exams and enroll in college. Further, the impacts were seen across race, gender and income levels.
  • As the CDC announced that masks are no longer required for fully vaccinated individuals, the Pennsylvania Department of Education recommends that schools continue to follow current mitigation efforts through the end of the school year. 
  • From foster care to college, Philadelphia high school senior Destiny Jackson is using her experiences to fuel her success in transitioning to adulthood. 
  • Keep track of progress across states on implementing postpartum Medicaid coverage extensions with this resource from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
  • An insightful brief – “How States Can Improve Child Care Facilities & Physical Spaces Using Federal Relief Dollars” – was recently released by national partners including Education Counsel, CLASP, NAEYC and others.
  • Teach Plus is holding a webinar “Why Now? A virtual education symposium and panel to address the urgent need for more teachers of color in Pennsylvania.” Registration is open for the event on June 3rd

Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children
200 North Third Street 13th Floor | Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17101
(717) 236-5680 | info@papartnerships.org

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