Greene County Schools use funds resulting from COVID-19 to improve academic program, staff development, facilities upgrade

To support schools and districts in addressing the impact of COVID-19, Congress has provided financial support through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund. Funds are allocated to each state in the same proportion as their Title I, Part A grants. In March 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act included $13 billion in ESSER funds. In December 2020, an additional $54 billion for ESSER II was allocated through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act. The American Rescue Plan (ARP) authorized another $122 billion for ESSER III (also called “ARP ESSER”) in March 2021.  With the CARES ACT of March 2020, Alabama was allocated $217 M for its K-12 schools, administered through ESSER 1. The Greene County School System received approximately $864,000. ESSER I provided resources for additional student services in curriculum and instruction; staff development and professional services; Special Education Services; PPE supplies and safety and sanitation of facilities in preparation for students to return to on site classes; technology including learning aids for students’ virtual classes; transportation; health services which included equipping nurses stations; other sundry services for the system. These funds must be spent by 2022. Following the CRRSA Act signed December, 2020, Alabama received $899 M for ESSER II. Greene County School System has been allocated approximately $3.3 M in ESSER II funds. According to Superintendent Dr. Corey Jones, the system is in the process of completing its ESSER II plan, which must be submitted to the State Board of Education by June, 2021. Dr. Jones noted that 50% of these funds can be allocated to upgrading facilities, with the remaining supporting curriculum and learning loss with enhanced summer school programs; technology expansion and upgrade across the system; staff development; continued safety measures in facilities; supplies, etc. These funds must be spent by 2023. In the recently passed American Rescue Plan of March 2021, Alabama is likely to receive $2 B to distribute through the ESSER 3 fund. Although the specific guidelines have not been released, more than 80% of these funds will be used to address unfinished learning and supporting the school system’s return to in-person learning. The ARP specifically states that the public school system must spend 20% of ESSER funds to directly address student learning loss. Districts have the flexibility to use the ESSER funds on any “activity authorized by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.” As a condition for receiving ESSER funds, state education agencies must continue to financially support K-12 public schools (maintenance of effort) at the same level or greater in fiscal 2022 and 2023 as they did on the average of fiscal 2017-2019. Similarly, state agencies and local districts may not reduce funding on a per-pupil basis (maintenance of equity). As the Legislature prepares to pass a state education budget, it cannot reduce funding to local school districts or the state risks losing ESSER funds. This is not expected to be an issue, with both Gov. Kay Ivey and the Legislature supporting increases in state funding.

Newswire: While struggling Americans await $1,200 Stimulus, Nation’s wealthiest reap windfall

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior Correspondent

While struggling individuals and families look forward to a $1,200 federal stimulus check, America’s wealthy have again made off with most of the cash.
The $2.3 trillion coronavirus stimulus package includes a temporary tax change for individuals who make at least $1 million a year, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. The Joint Committee’s analysis shows 43,000 taxpayers in the highest income bracket, making more than $1 million a year, could save a combined $70 billion in taxes. Almost all benefits from the tax break go to people making more than $100,000 a year.
The change in tax law reportedly suspends limits on how much money individuals can deduct against how much they owe based on lost income or business revenue, according to the committee.
Still, millionaires and billionaires are set to reap more than 80 percent of the benefits because of the Trump tax law change, which alters what certain business owners are allowed to deduct from their taxes.
It allows many of the country’s wealthiest to avoid nearly $82 billion of tax liability in 2020. Nearly 82 percent of the benefits from the tax law change will go to people making $1 million or more annually in 2020, according to the Joint Committee. Approximately 95 percent of those who benefit from the change make $200,000 or more.
The government began sending out $1,200 stimulus payments to individuals making less than $75,000, and $2,400 for couples earning no more than $150,000.
An additional $500 per child under 18 was provided to families while those high school and college students over the age of 17 were left entirely out.
In all, taxpayers will lose nearly $90 billion from the change to the law, which suspends a restriction introduced in President Trump’s 2017 tax bill. The change allows owners of businesses known as pass-through entities to lower their taxes by deducting as much as they want against income unrelated to the company.
“It’s a scandal for Republicans to loot American taxpayers amid an economic and human tragedy,” Rhode Island Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse noted in a statement.
“This analysis shows that while Democrats fought for unemployment insurance and small business relief, a top priority of President Trump and his allies in Congress was another massive tax cut for the wealthy.”
Whitehouse and Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) sent a letter expressing their concerns to Vice President Mike Pence, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Russell Vought.
“We are specifically seeking information about whether any people in the Trump administration who were involved with developing the changes would also benefit from the provisions.” Several published reports said both Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner stand to reap millions as a result of the stimulus package and the change in tax law.
So that Congress and the American public can better understand the provenance of these tax law changes, and assess whether any individuals within the Administration who stand to gain from these provisions were involved in their development, Whitehouse and Doggett have requested that Pence, and Vought provide the following information:
· All communications from January 1, 2020, to the present between the White House, Department of Treasury, or the Office of Management and Budget and any nongovernment person or entity related to sections 2303 or 2304, or the policies modified by those sections.
· All communications between the Department of Treasury and the White House, and between the Department of Treasury and the Office of Management and Budget, related to sections 2303 or 2304, or the policies modified by those sections, in the development of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.
· All studies, analyses, proposals, cost estimates, or other information considered by the White House, the Department of Treasury, or the Office of Management and Budget related to sections 2303 or 2304, or the policies modified by those sections, in the development of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.
“It’s a scandal for Republicans to loot American taxpayers in the midst of an economic and human tragedy,” Whitehouse noted in his statement. “Congress should repeal this rotten, un-American giveaway and use the revenue to help workers battling through this crisis.”
Doggett added that the cost of the tax break is more than total new funding for all hospitals in America and more than the total provided to all state and local governments.
“Someone wrongly seized on this health emergency to reward ultrarich beneficiaries, likely including the Trump family, with a tax loophole not available to middle class families. This net operating loss loophole is a loser that should be repealed,” Doggett said.