Biden Has a Plan to Open Schools. It Could Be a Financial Lifeline for Parents

by Maurie Backman | Updated July 25, 2021 - First published on Feb. 1, 2021

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Cute pupils running down the hall in school.

Image source: Getty Images

Many parents are struggling in the absence of in-person school. Thankfully, Joe Biden has the beginnings of a solution in the works.

When the coronavirus pandemic broke in March of 2020 and schools shut down in short order, many parents found themselves without childcare -- and in a major bind. In fact, as of September 2020, a good 20% of working-age adults were unemployed due to a lack of childcare. Not shockingly, women were more likely to leave the workforce than men due to the impact of the pandemic. But now, months later, a lot of parents are desperate to get back to a full-time work schedule -- something that won't be possible until schools reopen.

Thankfully, President Joe Biden has a plan to get students back into classrooms. Here's what it entails.

Reopening schools as quickly as possible

Packed classrooms and high coronavirus case numbers are a recipe for disaster, so many school districts have had to stay partially or fully shuttered during the pandemic. That's put parents who rely on schools for childcare in a bind.

A lot of parents can't afford full-time childcare, usually far more expensive than after-school care programs. But many are also having a hard time making ends meet in the absence of a full-time paycheck. Plenty of households lived paycheck to paycheck, with no money in savings to fall back on, before the coronavirus outbreak. And now, 10 months into the pandemic, many are getting desperate.

The good news is that Biden plans to sign an executive order called "Supporting the Reopening and Continuing Operation of Schools and Early Childhood Education Providers." That may be a mouthful, but in a nutshell, the goal is to provide guidance on reopening schools -- as well as financial support -- so districts can do so more safely and expeditiously.

Biden's school reopening plan includes boosting testing, accelerating vaccine distribution, and providing additional funding for schools. His plan also involves forming a coronavirus response team to focus on providing testing materials and contact-tracing support for schools, as well as quicker vaccinations for teachers, many of whom are still ineligible.

Biden's plan will also allow schools to access disaster relief funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Those funds could be used to purchase equipment like sanitizing stations and plexiglass to support safer in-person learning.

All told, the president has called on Congress to provide at least $130 billion in school funding. And if his plan is implemented quickly, it could get more children back into the classroom -- and more parents back to work to earn an income and keep up with their bills.

Biden has also released a relief package that includes $1,400 stimulus checks -- aid that could really help parents absorb the cost of extra childcare or compensate for lost wages. But ultimately, getting children back to full-time school may help a lot more than a single $1,400 payment. Though Biden's plan won't be implemented overnight, parents can at least cling to the hope that their children may be back in the classroom sooner than expected.

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