School Meals Part of COVID-19 Emergency Relief
Last night, President Trump signed the second emergency legislative package in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Unlike the first legislation that dealt primarily with funding vaccine research, infection monitoring, and first responder gear, this second, now-enacted law, the Family First Coronavirus Response Act, includes several school-related provisions for school meals and child nutrition.
Specifically, the law gives the Secretary of Agriculture the power to waive the requirement that any changes to state meal plans not increase the cost to the federal government as state and local leaders try to provide students meals while schools are closed.
A second provision also gives the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to issue nationwide school meal waivers to enhance the flexibility of states and districts providing meals and to waive existing meal pattern requirements.
The Family First Coronavirus Response Act also gives the Secretary of Agriculture the waiver authority to suspend the physically present certification requirement for participants in the Special Supplemental Nutrition program for Women Infant and Children (WIC). The law also gives states the opportunity to request waivers from the Secretary of Agriculture to increase SNAP benefits up to the monthly maximum and to request more flexibility in the number of caseloads to manage.
Additionally, the law expands family and medical leave benefits for government employees like those working in schools and for employees in companies with less than 500 employees. Workers can take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave with the first two weeks being fully paid and the subsequent ten weeks at no less than two-thirds pay for one of the following circumstances:
1. Recommended or required quarantine for exposure to the coronavirus.
2. To care for an at-risk family member quarantined because of exposure to or symptomatic of the coronavirus.
3. To care for a child in the event of a school or child-care closure because of the coronavirus.
CDC’s New Updated Guidance on Schools and COVID-19
The Centers for Disease Control has updated its COVID-19 guidance for schools to now include a school closure decision tree and other school closure considerations (PDF) for district leaders. Check the updated guidance here.