Congressional COVID-19 Relief Bill Brings Urgent Aid for Catholic Schools in New York

Private Catholic schools will be eligible for federal pandemic aid through the COVID-19 relief bill approved by Congress yesterday, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops confirmed today.

Congress has approved $82 billion for public and private K-12 schools, and the vast majority of those federal dollars will go to a $54.3 billion fund for public schools, while $22.7 billion would go to public and private higher education.

“Within the Governors’ Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER), which is part of the Education Stabilization Fund, $2.7 billion dollars is reserved for non-public schools, said Jennifer Daniels, associate director for public policy that impacts Catholic schools at the USCCB’s Secretariat on Catholic Education.

In an interview with the Register, Daniels described the news as a “very important win for our schools.”

“In the previous CARES Act, relief went through a different process,” and Catholic schools had to apply for assistance through local public school districts.

Now Catholic schools seeking reimbursement for COVID-related costs are expected to benefit from a “streamlined” process with a “set aside” for non-pubic institutions.

The change is critical, she said, because Catholic schools have spent as much as $1,000 per pupil as they pivoted to online instruction last spring and then implemented CDC protocols to make classroom safe for students and teachers this fall.

The last time around, many local parochial school systems encountered roadblocks and received no aid when they applied for funds designed to cover costs associated adapting to online learning platforms, among other expenses.

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