As the legislative session approaches, MREA is sharing updates from the White House, Department of Agriculture, and OSHA. MREA will be updating members when new information becomes available. Superintendents are welcome to join MREA’s Tuesday morning Advocacy Briefings with MREA Legislative Affairs Director Sam Walseth, beginning Feb 1.

White House Updates

On Wednesday, January 12th, the Biden-Harris Administration announced it is increasing COVID-19 testing for schools by: 

  • Sending 5 million no-cost point-of-care tests per month to schools 
  • Providing 5 million additional lab-Bbsed PCR tests for free to schools per month 
  • Deploying Federal surge testing units to support free testing access for students, school staff, and families at community testing sites 
  • Connecting schools with COVID-19 testing providers to set up school testing programs using American Rescue Plan Funds 
  • New training, resources, and materials for implementing Test to Stay in schools 

For more details, visit the FACT SHEET: Biden-Harris Administration Increases COVID-19 Testing in Schools to Keep Students Safe and Schools Open | The White House 

Department of Agriculture Updates 

USDA announced an increased reimbursement rate for the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). Under pandemic waivers, schools are able to receive SFSP reimbursement rates for school meals provided, which is higher than the National School Lunch Program reimbursement rates. By law, SFSP rates must be adjusted every January for inflation. This increase totals an additional 25 cents per lunch meaning schools will now receive 22 percent more reimbursement that they would under normal conditions.  

USDA also announced more details for the $1.5 billion they are providing to school meal programs to address issues caused by supply chain disruption. One billion dollars will go to states then to districts as cash payments that they can use to purchase food for their programs. $300 million will be used for purchasing of USDA foods. States will order foods then distribute to districts. $200 million will go to the Local Foods for Schools Cooperative Agreements to allow states to purchase local foods and support local food chains. Here is a breakdown for how much each state will receive under each program.  

OSHA Vaccine Mandate Updates

On January 13, the Supreme Court blocked the Biden administration from enforcing a vaccine-or-testing mandate for large employers, according to the New York Times. The court allowed a more limited mandate requiring health care workers at facilities receiving federal money to be vaccinated. Read the full New York Times article.