Lawler Advocates Deadline Extension for NY Private School Covid Funds

By Matis Glenn

Rep. Mike Lawler, R-N.Y., May 10, 2023, in Valhalla, N.Y. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Freshman New York Rep. Michael Lawler (R-17) introduced legislation last week aimed at extending the spending deadline of two federal programs granted to private schools to cover the cost of Covid-related expenses and educational programs designed to help students catch up after missing school.

The two grants, Emergency Assistance to Non-Public School (EANS) I and II, were passed in 2021 as part of President Biden’s financial response to the pandemic, included in the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, and the American Rescue Plan respectively.

The grants guaranteed educational services to help students catch up on lost school time, such as curriculum development, additional staff, and professional services; all contracted by New York State to a specific vendor, who would receive the allocated funds.

Direct reimbursement for logistical equipment, such as desk shields, personal protective equipment, thermometers, and other tools used in running a school under pandemic conditions was covered as well.

Funding for both programs had a spending deadline; September 30, 2023 for EANS I, and the end of September 2024 for EANS II.

However, many schools which applied did not receive their services on time, and weren’t given approvals for purchase reimbursements. If the current deadlines are kept in place, these schools will lose out on substantial amounts of funding.

To remedy this, Lawler drafted legislation asking the federal government to grant an extension to both programs.

“I’m proud to introduce this important piece of legislation that will extend authorization of funding for emergency aid to non-public schools.” Lawler said in a statement. “The New York State Education Department has indicated that an extension would be of great assistance, and so this legislation will prove an important step in ensuring that all students and schools receive the resources they need to succeed.”

 Lawler, a Republican who won in a traditionally moderate district, has bolstered ties with the Jewish communities, especially in Rockland, home to Monsey and its surrounding large Orthodox communities.

In a letter written to Lawler May 8, Christina Coughlin, speaking on behalf of Commissioner New York State Education Department Betty Rosa, agreed with the congressman’s contention that the deadline should be extended.

“We have found that the USDE (U.S. Department of Education) guidance issuance process is too slow to reflect the tight timelines for this program,” the letter read. “…In an entirely new program such as EANS, especially with specific statutory end dates…the usual federal deliberative process is not adequate to guide states through the challenges. Your assistance in encouraging rapid and clear guidance on our questions would be much appreciated.”

Agudath Israel responded to the bill.

“The intent of the federal legislation was for the schools to be able to use these funds,” Rabbi Yehoshua Pinkus, Director of Yeshiva Services Agudath Israel of America, told Hamodia. “It has been challenging for schools to utilize these funds by the impending deadline. We are very grateful to Congressman Lawler for introducing legislation to extend the deadline.”

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