Thursday, June 24, 2021

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Federal money to flood Colusa County

President Joseph Biden signed the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill on Friday that could be a windfall for local governments and schools in Colusa County.

The “American Rescue Plan” (H.R. 1391) includes direct payments to school districts and local governments and sends an additional $1,400 in stimulus checks to individuals making less than $75,000 a year.

The American Rescue Plan is intended to support small businesses, extend unemployment benefits, and help schools reopen, said U.S. Rep. John Garamendi, who supported the legislation.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is destroying lives, small businesses, and local communities across this nation as we enter the second year of its existence,” Garamendi said in a statement. “Tragically, over 500,000 American lives have been lost to this virus, and millions more have been infected and are facing long-term health complications.”

Garamendi said the Rescue Plan is the boldest and strongest COVID-19 relief package to-date. It provides support to put vaccines in arms, puts children back in school, and addresses specific needs in local health care, transportation, education, and other essential services.

The “American Rescue Plan” allocates more than $14 billion to the State of California. It includes direct federal financial relief to local communities to help cover budget shortfalls due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The County of Colusa will receive nearly $4.2 million in direct payment. The City of Colusa will receive just over $1.1 million, and the City of Williams will receive just over $1 million.
In addition to local government funding, the Colusa Unified School District will receive $1.7 million in federal funding; Maxwell Unified School District will receive $394,000; Pierce Joint Unified School District will receive $2.3 million; Princeton Joint Unified School District will receive $218,000, and Williams Unified School District will receive $1.6 million.

The federal funding to the schools is in addition to money from the State of California to help combat learning loss.

“We haven’t had actual direct instruction in many places in a year,” Colusa County Superintendent of Schools Mike West said Tuesday. “It’s not good for our kids…Our kids need to be in school.”

West said that while local districts have been aggressive at providing distance learning, in-person instruction, or a hybrid, he believes continued efforts to get people vaccinated will help schools reopen fully.

“In the five districts that we are dealing with, we believe, at this particular point, everyone is going to be open for face-to-face, probably within a week or two after April 1,” West said.

West said he expects that 20 to 25 percent of students will remain in distance learning at parents’ request and will be for quite some time for whatever reasons they may have.
“Even in the fall, there will be some adjustments to allow for distance learning for those people who don’t feel comfortable moving back to school full time,” he said.

The biggest challenge, he said, is getting students adjusted back to a normal school environment.

West added that while the solution is not necessarily money, the school districts will take the offered funding.

The problem, he said, is that schools are likely required to spend the money in a short amount of time or give it back, which means the schools could be forced to throw money at programs that may or may not work.

“This issue is not money; the issue is time,” West said.

West said that while schools need financial support, they also need time to get education back on track.

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