Biden administration to allocate billions toward COVID-19 testing for schools

The Health and Human Services department will invest $10 billion.

March 17, 2021, 5:53 PM

The Biden administration on Wednesday announced a plan to allocate $10 billion toward implementing COVID-19 screening tests for teachers, staff and students to help districts reopen safely, according to a news release from the agency.

The Department of Health and Human Services said in its announcement that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as state and local health departments, will help schools set up these programs, and that the final allocations will be made to health departments in early April.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona later told reporters at a White House press briefing that the move will help to "make sure we can not only open our schools but keep them open."

"COVID-19 testing is critical to saving lives and restoring economic activity," said HHS acting Secretary Norris Cochran said in a press release. "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."

The administration also announced plans for a "summit" on reopening schools on March 24, featuring first lady Jill Biden and Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC.

PHOTO: A student gives her COVID-19 swab to Dr. Helenann Civian, the principal of South Boston Catholic Academy in Boston, Jan. 19, 2021.
A student gives her COVID-19 swab to Dr. Helenann Civian, the principal of South Boston Catholic Academy in Boston, Jan. 19, 2021. Pool testing means an entire classroom of students puts their swabs in the same cup and it's tested as one sample, making it faster/cheaper.
Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

"As a parent and as an educator, I know the value of in-person learning and for those of you that are parents here, you know, there's no substitute for in-person learning, so I'm excited to get to work, making sure we can safely reopen our schools as quickly as possible," Cardona said Wednesday.

As part of the Biden administration's push to get students back into the classroom, the Education Department also announced states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia will receive a combined $122 billion from the American Rescue Plan that President Joe Biden signed last week.

The funds will start becoming available to state education agencies this month, the Education Department said, and can be used for things like investing in PPE, better ventilation and hiring additional staff.

"This pandemic has taken an extraordinary toll on students, parents, educators, and schools, and we know that our schools, students, and communities need help now to reopen safely and quickly, and to stay open," Cardona said in a statement.

"These funds from the American Rescue Plan and 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."

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