CPS expects $720M windfall if Trump signs COVID-19 relief bill

Chicago Public Schools officials are expecting to receive about $720 million if President Donald Trump signs the coronavirus relief package passed by Congress Monday, federal funding that would help fill holes for the financially strapped district and support the school system’s planned reopening in the new year.

But late Tuesday, Trump threatened to veto the package over what he called “ridiculously low” direct checks of $600 to most Americans, saying Congress should boost payments to $2,000. The surprise move by the president put the fate of the relief package in limbo.

CPS leaders would collectively breathe a sigh of relief if Trump signs off after the district’s budget for this fiscal year had assumed at least $343 million in federal funding, a risky calculation that could end with more than double the anticipated funds after a months-long stalemate in Congress.

“This crucial federal funding ensures our ability to support the critical resources needed to reopen classrooms, expand access to high-quality academic programming, employ record high numbers of nurses and social workers, invest in social and emotional supports, and provide additional resources to our highest-need schools,” CPS CEO Janice Jackson said in a statement earlier Tuesday.

“Black and Brown families in Chicago need the option to send their children to school this academic year, and this funding relief is essential to the safe and supportive learning environments needed to mitigate learning loss and prevent long-term harm.”

The $720 million figure is an estimate, with the exact number to be calculated in the coming weeks if the president signs the bill, officials said. Another $80 million would be sent to the city for non-public schools, Jackson said.

In part, the funding would help pay for expenses over the past few months, including technology for remote learning, air purifiers and cleaning supplies for soon-to-be-open classrooms and newly hired staff.

The new funding could also offset an anticipated $300 million in revenue losses next year, officials said, including declines in property tax revenues, teacher pension contribution growth and stagnating state funding.

The federal dollars could in turn help fulfill obligations made in the new Chicago Teachers Union contract negotiated last fall. Those expenses include $17 million for additional nurses, social workers and special education case managers; $80 million worth of raises for CTU and SEIU Local 73 members; and $25 million for new preschool programming.