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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: May 20, 2021 02:13 PM
From: Senator Vincent J. Hughes
To: All Senate members
Subject: School Infrastructure
In the near future, I plan on introducing legislation to allocate $600 million of funds from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) for school infrastructure projects.  The allocation of $475 million of the Commonwealth’s State Fiscal Relief Fund allocation and $125 million of the Commonwealth’s discretionary allocation from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund will provide much needed funding for healthy learning environments across the Commonwealth. 

Guidance from U.S. Treasury allows states to use funds received from the State Fiscal Relief Fund for “capital investments in public facilities to meet pandemic operation needs, such as physical plant improvements . . . or adaptations to public buildings to implement COVID-19 mitigation tactics.”  Additionally, guidance allows funds received to be used for “support for prevention, mitigation or other services in congregate living facilities and other key settings like schools . . .”

Using the ARP funds for school infrastructure can address a significant issue facing nearly every school district in the Commonwealth.  The guidance from U.S. Treasury recognizes the disproportionate impacts COVID-19 has had in low-income communities and how the pandemic has worsened disparities that existed prior to COVID-19.  With this recognition, U.S. Treasury has given States wide latitude to address these disparities that have existed before COVID-19 and have only been made worse.

Now more than ever, we need to ensure our students have access to safe and healthy learning environments.  COVID-19 has shown the need for removing health hazards from classrooms and providing proper ventilation systems.  Unhealthy learning environments leads to overcrowded classrooms and long-term health issues for students and educators.  Investing ARP funds in our school buildings can create more than 16,600 jobs.

Under my plan, the $600 million in grant funding would be awarded through the Department of Education.  Eligible applicants would be required to commit local funds to the project with the Commonwealth matching those funds at an approximate rate of 3-to-1.  School districts will receive approximately $5 billion for similar projects through the ARP’s ESSER Fund.  With the local match, the total investment in school infrastructure will be $800 million.   

Eligible projects would align with the guidance from U.S. Treasury and would be used to remediate lead paint and pipes, replace outdated ventilation systems, and provide a healthy learning environment.

I hope you will join me in sponsoring this legislation.