More than $2 billion could come to Oregon schools, colleges in Biden’s proposed bill

By Meerah Powell (OPB) and Elizabeth Miller (OPB)
Feb. 22, 2021 2 p.m.

Federal funds would be additional to funds already provided from latest COVID-19 relief bill.

Under President Joe Biden’s new pandemic support legislation package, Oregon education — from early childhood to higher education — would receive more than $2 billion, according to the U.S House Committee on Education and Labor.

Biden’s American Rescue Plan includes funding toward vaccination efforts, financial relief checks as well as significant investments in education across the U.S.


If passed in its current form, K-12 education in Oregon would receive nearly $1.2 billion, higher education would receive $401.4 million, head start programs would receive about $7.4 million and child care would receive $406 million.

That adds to $499.1 million in federal funds awarded to Oregon school districts in January to address learning loss and prepare schools for reopening.

Portland Public Schools, Oregon’s largest school district, has received $32.8 million from that funding. District officials plan to use the money for technology, PPE (including masks and hand sanitizer), and “learning recovery.”

These improvements are meant to help districts like PPS prepare to reopen and welcome students back into school buildings safely as COVID-19 continues to be a health threat.

In PPS, which has several older buildings with poor ventilation, some of this federal money will be used for HVAC inspections, ventilation improvements, and portable air filtration, according to the district.


If Congress passes Biden’s stimulus package, Portland is estimated to receive another $74 million.

Oregon U.S. Democratic Rep. Suzanne Bonamici chairs the Civil Rights and Human Services subcommittee of the Education and Labor committee, in the House.

“Some schools in NW Oregon have been able to reopen, but many have not,” said Bonamici in a statement Friday.

“We all want students and educators back in schools, but they need resources to make sure everyone is safe. This funding will help with PPE, cleaning supplies, ventilation and more. As a senior member of the Education and Labor Committee I’ve been advocating for funding to help schools and districts equitably serve students during these difficult times.”

In terms of higher education, it’s unclear how the funding would be distributed to specific institutions, but Oregon would receive $401.4 million for universities, colleges — and students - from the plan.

According to the House Committee on Education and Labor, the reconciliation bill aims to provide support to higher education institutions that have lost revenue during the pandemic, as well as directly support students.

The plan states that colleges and universities must dedicate at least half of the funding from the plan to emergency financial aid grants for students to prevent hunger, homelessness and other hardships caused by the pandemic.

“Throughout the pandemic I have heard heartbreaking stories from students who are struggling with hunger, housing, and other necessities,” Bonamici said in a statement. “Community colleges, universities, and other institutions of higher education can provide a critical lifeline for these students, connecting them to the resources they need to survive and continue their education.”

The legislation and the estimated grant amounts for districts are subject to change.

The House Budget Committee is slated to consider the American Rescue Plan Monday. A full vote by the U.S. House of Representatives is expected later this week.