Congress Clears FY 2021 Funding and COVID-19 Relief Package, Trump Expected to Sign
Congress Clears FY 2021 Funding and COVID-19 Relief Package, Trump Expected to Sign

December  2020

On December 21, Congress advanced a package of two bills that would fund federal agencies for FY 2021 and a COVID-19 relief package totaling $900 billion. Congress also passed an additional one-week continuing resolution expiring on December 28 to provide time to prepare the legislation for President Trump’s expected signature.

Earlier in December, a bipartisan group of senators presented a compromise bill that contained several provisions, including $82 billion for education, to address the continued economic impact of the pandemic on the country. The final COVID-19 package contains $28 million for the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), specified for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The 2021 NAEP assessments in fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math will be delayed due to increased COVID-19 cases that have led schools to return to remote learning. Beyond the NAEP funding, the bill does not contain supplemental recovery funding for federal research agencies sought by the higher education and scientific communities.

The package falls far short of the $3 trillion in the original HEROES Act that the House passed in May. Negotiations on this fourth relief package have stalled at various points on the top line amount; on aid for states and localities that Democrats have advocated; and on business liability immunity, a key priority for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The FY 2021 omnibus appropriations bill includes $642.46 million for the Institute of Education Sciences, an increase of $19 million above the FY 2020 amount. The amount is a combination of the funding in the House and Senate bills (see summary of FY 2021 House proposal, summary of FY 2021 Senate proposal). The House bill provided increases for all line items with the exception of NAEP; the Senate bill contained $12 million in additional funding for NAEP but no other increases within the IES budget. The final agreement does not include language in the House proposal related to staffing at the National Center for Education Statistics.

The FY 2021 bill also includes $8.49 billion for the National Science Foundation (a boost of $208 million), with $968 million (a $28 million increase) allocated to the Education and Human Resources Directorate, and $6.91 billion (a $172 million increase) for the Research and Related Activities account. The National Institutes of Health will receive $42.93 billion, a boost of $1.25 billion compared with FY 2020 levels. The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development will receive $1.59 billion, a $33 million increase over the FY 2020 amount.

Specific budget amounts within each of these three agencies, with comparisons to the FY 2020 budget request and final FY 2020 appropriations, are noted in this table.