What Impact Will the Stimulus Bill Have on School Health?

February 20, 2009 | Written By:

By Mark Bishop, Deputy Director

On Tuesday, President Obama signed the stimulus bill, also known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009,  and we’ve been working through the details. [This link is to the full bill, a 13MB, 407-page PDF — consider yourself warned.]  

It seems that what we heard about the compromise language earlier was all pretty accurate – there was additional money added to the state fiscal stabilization fund which, while not directly marked for school renovation and modernization, may be used for that purpose (per page 165 of the bill). However, decisions about how this money is distributed at the state level will be made on a state-by-state basis, highlighting the importance of advocacy to help state leaders understand the need for funding to support school repair and modernization.  

In addition to approximately $53 billion earmarked for education, the Act authorizes tax credits for a total of $22 billion of school construction bonds (p. 242). The bill includes several additional items of note for school health advocates:

  • $100 million for school food service grants for “equipment assistance” (p. 5)
  • $3.2 billion for the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (p. 24)
  • $3.1 billion for state energy programs for renewable energy (p. 24)
  • $1.6 billion for Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (p. 208)
  • $3.2 billion for qualified energy conservation bonds (p. 208)

This is by no means a complete list. Much of this funding is for energy-efficiency and green infrastructure development, something that schools may take advantage of even though the funding is not specifically earmarked for educational buildings.

What we do know is that the stimulus bill will provide a quick influx of money into all states, and schools now have an opportunity to access resources not only to cover their budgets, but to invest in the next generation of energy efficient, healthy schools. In the case of school food service grants, each state will have a very short window of time to define “equipment assistance” and provide guidance for school food programs. And in the case of school food service grants, there is a very short window where each state will have to define “equipment assistance” and provide guidance for school food programs.

HSC will be monitoring the progress of state-level decisions on how stimulus spending will affect school health. Please check back for updates as we continue to learn more about the impact of the stimulus bill on schools.  

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