The Biden administration has announced it will be allocating $10bn in funding to assist in testing school children and teachers, as the country works to return students to the classroom.
This funding, which comes from the recently passed American Rescue Plan, will be released to states in April, the administration said on Wednesday.
Since the funding would be allocated by proportion, states like California and Texas would receive a larger sum compared to smaller states, with their amount being around $800 million each, it was added.
In conjunction with the announcement, the Education Department released a state-by-state breakdown of how much of the $122 billion from the American Rescue Plan each state would receive for its schools amid the coronavirus pandemic.
States would be able to determine how to use their funding, which can go to measures like purchasing protective equipment, making building improvements, acquiring additional staff members, extending summer school opportunities, and assisting children who fell behind academically during the pandemic.
“The extraordinary steps the department is taking to get these resources to states quickly will allow schools to invest in mitigation strategies to get students back in the classroom and stay there, and address the many impacts this pandemic has had on students – especially those disproportionately impacted by the pandemic,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a news release on Wednesday.
Carole Johnson, who heads the Covid-19 federal testing programme for the Biden administration, said during a White House press briefing on Wednesday that the additional $10 billion for school testing would “add a layer of protection” for students and staff as more buildings reopen.
When asked about how the administration would measure the success of the testing programme, Ms Johnson added that the goal was to assist school districts in providing funding for them to set up their own testing programmes.
This funding would include regular screening of students, teachers, and staff members so schools could catch when a person becomes infected but has not started to display symptoms. Regular screenings could help to discover asymptomatic individuals so they don’t spread the virus within the school.
“Covid-19 testing is critical to saving lives and restoring economic activity,” acting Health and Human Services Secretary Norris Cochran said in a statement. “As part of the Biden Administration’s National Strategy, HHS will continue to expand our capacity to get testing to the individuals and the places that need it most, so we can prevent transmission of the virus and defeat the pandemic.”
Providing testing funds was the Biden administration’s latest effort to get schools reopened across the country. Mr Biden directed states to prioritise vaccinating teachers this past month in an effort to get more schools to reopen.
Although more and more teachers were receiving a Covid-19 vaccine, testing would still be crucial for reopening schools as students under the age of 16 might not be eligible to receive a jab for months – as health experts work to better understand if the treatment would be safe for children.
Since testing programmes would be new to many schools across the country, the CDC said it would work with state and local health departments to help them develop the programs.