$1.2B in COVID-19 Funds Available for NJ School Districts

New Jersey’s Department of Education will use $1.2 billion in federal funding from the latest coronavirus relief package to address learning gaps, mental health issues and other problems caused by the pandemic, Gov. Phil Murphy announced at today’s COVID-19 briefing.

“We think this is the most comprehensive plan being put forth by any American State,” Murphy said, detailing how the Department of Education will distribute these funds across a broad range of COVID-19-related needs – from in-classroom learning, to after-school programs, to upgrading HVAC and other systems.

“While our schools and educators have done tremendous work in this extraordinarily stressful past 11 months to keep our kids learning, we know that our students are still facing incredible stress,” he said.

In addition to federal funds, the state will receive more than $75 million in grants to regular operating districts, charter schools, Renaissance school projects and county vocational school districts to help curb learning loss. According to Angelica Allen-McMillan, acting Commissioner of the Department of Education, the funds will be used to support research-based academic enrichment activities in STEM, literacy and the arts, including summer learning academies and one-on-one tutoring.

“While this grant will target low-income districts most in need of support, all school districts will be eligible for funding,” Allen-McMillan said.

New Jersey schools can also apply for $30 million of non-competitive grant funding to help them strengthen mental health supports for their students and school staff. Additionally, the Department of Education has asked the federal government to waive statewide standardized testing this spring.

“This has been a challenging year – I believe that’s the understatement of the century – but we remain unwavering in our commitment to our educational communities,” Murphy added.

The Governor also announced the Department of Human Services is extending COVID-19-related childcare assistance programs for families and providers to the end of June, while continuing to waive co-pays in the state’s childcare subsidy program for parents who request it due to impact from COVID-19.

And while 64 new COVID-19-related deaths were confirmed this week, bringing the total to 20,495, the number of patients being treated in hospitals was down to 2,202, the lowest in many months, Murphy said. In vaccine news, 1,559,569 doses have been administered in the state to date: about 1.1 million first doses and more than 456,000 second doses. Weather issues caused four of six New Jersey megasites to close Thursday and have impacted delivery of new doses, forcing many appointments to be rescheduled.

“To be clear, everyone who wants to be vaccinated will be vaccinated, period,” Murphy said. “We have directed our sites to prepare to ramp up operations and extend hours to efficiently manage this delay once their doses arrive.

In other news, Murphy announced his budget address for the Fiscal Year 2022 will stream online at 1 p.m. Tuesday, February 23. “Now is the time to look ahead and put in motion a plan to spark New Jersey’s economic recovery,” he said. “We will not allow this pandemic to pull us backward.”

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