May 19, 2020

Gillibrand, Murkowski Urge Congress To Prioritize Impact Aid Funding In Next Coronavirus Relief Package

Funding Would Provide Critical Resources to Federally Impacted School Districts to Help Alleviate Expected State Funding Cuts, Avoid Lay-offs, And Transition to Online Learning

U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) led a bipartisan group of senators urging Congress to prioritize Impact Aid funding for federally impacted schools in the next coronavirus relief package. Federally impacted school districts educate some of the most vulnerable student populations — including Native American and military connected children and children living in federal low-rent housing — and rely on Impact Aid for resources. As these school districts struggle to respond to the challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic, additional funding is needed to help alleviate expected state funding cuts and avoid lay-offs, transition to online learning, and spur the economic recovery in their communities. 

“Children who attend schools near federal land rely on the Impact Aid program to gain equal access to the same educational opportunities as other children,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This pandemic has only increased the learning gap and it’s critical that Congress invest in Impact Aid funding to ensure these school districts can address the unique needs of their students. I’m proud to fight for this important funding in the next federal relief package. I will continue working across the aisle in the Senate to help schools and military communities in New York and across the country have the resources needed to provide all students with a quality education.”

“The Impact Aid program reimburses local school districts for the loss of local tax revenue due to the presence of federal property or lands, such as military bases, national forests, and tribal lands. I am proud to work with my colleagues in asking Senate leadership for “substantial, flexible, additional investments” in the Impact Aid program in the next COVID-19 relief package to help our schools meet their increased needs during the pandemic. I have long supported funding for Impact Aid, and at this time, these funds are more important than ever,” said Senator Murkowski.

Impact Aid provides direct, flexible funding to over 1,200 school districts. The program provides payment in lieu of taxes to local school districts for lost revenue caused by the presence of certain federal land in their districts, including national parks and grasslands, national laboratories, Army Corps of Engineers projects, and property that encompasses the military academies. In a letter, Gillibrand and Murkowski called on Congress to prioritize this funding to ensure that these school districts have the resources needed to transition to online learning, meet the social and emotional needs of students, provide wrap-around services, and replace failing infrastructure. Specifically, the senators called for: 

  • Section 7003 –to fully fund the Basic Support Program to ensure that federally impacted districts are able cover the gaps in funding compared to non-federally impacted districts and enable them to respond to costs associated with the virus;
  • Section 7003(d) – to support children with disabilities during the pandemic by increasing payments for students with an active Individualized Education Program (IEP); and
  • Section 7002 – Federal Property to support districts with non-taxable federal lands respond and recover from the virus and mitigate potential state and local funding gaps.

Full text of the letter can be found here and below.

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May 14, 2020

 

The Honorable Mitch McConnell 

Senate Majority Leader

Room S-230, U.S. Capitol 

Washington, DC 20510

 

The Honorable Charles E. Schumer 

Senate Minority Leader

Room S-221, U.S. Capitol 

Washington, DC 20510

 

The Honorable Richard Shelby 

Chairman

Senate Appropriations Committee 

Room S-128, U.S. Capitol 

Washington, DC 20510

 

The Honorable Patrick Leahy 

Vice Chairman

Senate Appropriations Committee

Room S-128, U.S. Capitol 

Washington, DC 20510

 

Dear Leader McConnell, Leader Schumer, Chairman Shelby, and Vice Chairman Leahy:

As Congress continues to consider emergency relief funding to respond to the continuing public health emergency caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19 or the virus), we urge you to recognize the importance of the Federal Impact Aid Program and provide a one-time supplemental investment to assist federally impacted school districts during the pandemic. School districts who receive funding from the Impact Aid program, educate some of our most vulnerable student populations, including Native American and military connected children and children living in federal low-rent housing, are less resourced than non-federally impacted school districts to respond to the challenges caused by this pandemic. 

Congress created the Impact Aid program in 1950 in recognition that the federal government needed to accept responsibility in areas impacted by a federal presence and help meet the local responsibility of financing public education. Impact Aid provides a payment in lieu of taxes to local school districts for lost revenue that is a result of tax-exempt federal property and actions that have increased expenditures due to the enrollment of federally connected children. The program provides direct, flexible funding to over 1,200 school districts. Impact Aid funds a range of programs, including facilities renovation, efforts to retain highly qualified teachers, adequate technology, and maintenance of transportation fleets. For many districts, this funding represents the very lifeblood that allows their school system to operate.

Federally impacted school districts depend on Impact Aid due to a limited local tax base caused by the presence of certain federal land in their districts, including national parks and grasslands, national laboratories, Army Corps of Engineers projects, and property that encompasses the military academies. In some of these communities, the federal government is the largest landowner, which significantly diminishes a school district’s revenue base. The next COVID-19 response legislation should prioritize this funding stream in order to help alleviate expected state funding cuts to avoid lay-offs and spur the economic recovery in their communities. The funds will also ensure that these school districts have the help they need as they transition to online learning, meet the social and emotional needs of students, provide wrap-around services, and replace failing infrastructure. Specifically, funding for Impact Aid should include robust funding for: 

  • Section 7003 –to fully fund the Basic Support Program to ensure that federally impacted districts are able cover the gaps in funding compared to non-federally impacted districts and enable them to respond to costs associated with the virus;
  • Section 7003(d) – to support children with disabilities during the pandemic by increasing payments for students with an active Individualized Education Program (IEP); and
  • Section 7002 – Federal Property to support districts with non-taxable federal lands
  • respond and recover from the virus and mitigate potential state and local funding gaps.

We must not forget about our most vulnerable student populations during this pandemic. Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of this request.

Sincerely,