The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) have released a new consensus study report titled Rental Eviction and the COVID-19 Pandemic: Averting a Looming Crisis, which addresses the impending expiration of the federal moratorium on rental evictions on July 21, imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The report offers a set of recommendations to be taken over the next three years to address the impacts of housing instability caused by the pandemic. The report also recommends the establishment of a task force in the Executive Office of the President to prevent rental evictions and housing instability. Some of the recommendations include:
- Harnessing existing social programs to connect renters with financial and legal assistance.
- Providing assistance to renters in traditionally marginalized communities.
- Expanding social safety net programs during and beyond the pandemic.
- Improving data collection and reporting to better understand eviction.
- Commissioning research on housing instability.
- Increasing the availability of housing choice vouchers and housing search support.
- Reducing discriminatory housing practices and systemic housing inequities.
The report is available on the NASEM website.
The Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has requested emergency Office of Management and Budget (OMB) clearance to conduct a School Pulse Survey that will produce information on how schools, students, and educators are responding in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The survey, which COSSA and other stakeholders have advocated for, is intended to comply with President Biden’s day-one executive order on school reopening, which requires the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), NCES’s home agency, to facilitate “the collection of data necessary to fully understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on students and educators, including data on the status of in-person learning.” NCES began collecting this information using the existing sample for the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) 2021 School Survey, but now proposes to continue the effort as a standalone activity. This will allow NCES to continue to collect information on topics such as instructional mode offered; enrollment counts of subgroups of students using various instructional modes; learning loss mitigation strategies; safe and healthy school mitigation strategies; special education services; use of technology; use of federal relief funds; and information on staffing.
Because this data is considered both time-sensitive and high-priority, IES is seeking an abbreviated emergency clearance process before beginning preliminary activities. However, the public has until July 12 to comment on the proposal. More information is available in the Federal Register notice. NCES will also release an additional request for public comment concurrent with data collection for the survey.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Societal Experts Action Network (SEAN) (see COSSA’s previous coverage) has published new guidance on Addressing Disaster Vulnerability Among Homeless Populations During COVID-19. The guidance is intended to help policymakers support homeless populations before, during, and after a disaster in the context of COVID-19. According to the guidance, “Understanding the unique challenges of disaster preparedness among homeless communities and the strain on support services caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is critical for effectively planning for and carrying out emergency services and sheltering for homeless populations in the context of COVID-19 and disasters.” The new resource is available as an interactive web tool and as a report on the National Academies website.
On June 17, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions (HELP) held a hearing to discuss the previous response and aid provided to institutions of higher education in light of COVID-19 and what these schools require moving forward to safely return to campus. The committee heard testimony from Youlonda Copeland-Morgan, Vice Provost of Enrollment Management at UCLA; Dr. Reynold Verret, President of Xavier University of Louisiana; Anthony Harris, a student at Baldwin Wallace University; and Madeline Pumariega, President of Miami Dade College.
Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC) both were in agreement that it is essential for students to get back to school safely come fall. Senator Murray acknowledged how federal aid has been helpful through the pandemic in allowing students all over the country to continue their education. Senator Burr was quick to bring up concerns of a lack of accountability within higher education institutions when it comes to receiving aid from the government. It was apparent across all witness testimonies that the end of COVID-19 will not mean that student’s need for relief will end as their needs may change but they will not disappear.
Much discussion was dedicated to prior COVID-19 relief legislation such as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) (see previous COSSA analysis for more details). Of particular note, the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) was cited numerous times as being invaluable for students and faculty at higher education institutions across the country. The witnesses who act as school administrators were asked specifically how they used HEERF funds to support students who have been disproportionally affected by the pandemic. This led to a discussion of the importance of how funds have been allocated to help students not only gain access to the financial help they needed, but also the mental health services that became necessary during the pandemic.
Witnesses emphasized the importance of transparency and communication when it came to providing students, parents, and faculty members with information regarding guidelines and vaccines. There seemed to be a broad consensus from both Democrats and Republicans of the committee as well as panelists that it is not unreasonable to require vaccines in order to have a smooth and safe transition back to in-person instruction. While conversation shifted from federal aid to vaccine requirements, a common theme of the hearing revolved around the need to continue this monetary support past the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The witnesses’ testimonies and a full recording of the hearing are available on the HELP Committee website.
This article was contributed by COSSA’s summer intern, Lillian Chmielewska of the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Technology Policy Fellows will host a day-long symposium addressing “Health Inequities Exposed and Exacerbated by the COVID-19 Pandemic’” on Wednesday, June 30, 2021. The symposium will feature expert panels on healthcare access, health literacy, and the long-term social, behavioral, and economic impacts of COVID-19 mitigation efforts. More information about the symposium is available here.
The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE) has announced that it is participating in the Trans-Atlantic Platform Call for Proposals: Recovery, Renewal, and Resilience in a Post-Pandemic World (T-AP RRR). T-AP RRR is a grant competition that will support international collaborative research projects that address gaps in our understanding of the complex and dynamic societal effects of COVID-19. Proposals are asked to address one or more of the following challenges: reducing inequalities and vulnerabilities; building a more resilient, inclusive, and sustainable society; fostering democratic governance and participation; advancing responsible and inclusive digital innovation; and/or ensuring effective and accurate communication and media. In addition, collaborative research teams must include researchers based in at least three participating countries and include partners from both sides of the Atlantic. More information is available in the Dear Colleague Letter. Submissions are due by July 12.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Societal Experts Action Network (SEAN) (see COSSA’s previous coverage) has published a new guidance on Understanding and Communicating Vaccine Efficacy and Effectiveness. The guidance is intended to help public officials prepare and evaluate their communications efforts around vaccination. It is available as an interactive web tool, with highlights on Communicating Vaccine Efficacy and on Communicating About Efficacy and Effectiveness in the Context of Equity in Covid-19 Vaccine Distribution, as well as a full report on the National Academies website.
On March 25, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) held a hearing on health equity and health disparities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Committee members heard testimony from Vice President for Health Equity at Vanderbilt University Medical Center Dr. Consuelo H. Wilkins, Executive Vice President of the Seattle Indian Health Board Abigail Echo-Hawk, Managing Director of the Poverty to Prosperity Program at the Center for American Progress Taryn Mackenzie Williams, and President and CEO of Atrium Health Gene A. Woods.
Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA), Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC), and Committee members all expressed concerns over deep health disparities exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, including for communities of color, individuals with disabilities, the elderly, and rural communities. The Committee members questioned the witnesses on a variety of topics including COVID-19 vaccines and how to equitably distribute them to at-risk communities, the effect of the pandemic on Indian and tribal health services, the increased importance of telehealth during the pandemic, diversity among clinal trial participants for vaccines, and incorporating health equity practices in health data and data management.
The witnesses’ testimonies and a full recording of the hearing are available on the HELP website.
The Population Association of America will host a virtual congressional briefing, “Living, Working, Dying: Demographic Insights into COVID-19” on Friday, April 23, 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. ET. The event will feature presentations by prominent population scientists who will present findings on the disparate impacts of COVID, especially as they relate to mortality, education, food insecurity, and family dynamics, and what additional research and data are needed to understand and address its far-reaching effects. The briefing will feature Dr. Noreen Goldman of Princeton University. Dr. Caitlyn Collins of Washington University in St. Louis, Dr. Marc Garcia of the University of Nebraska, and Dr. Anna Gassman-Pines of Duke University. Registration is available here.
On March 11, President Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (H.R. 1319). As previously reported, the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill includes $600 million in funding to support research related to the pandemic at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and $100 million to support research related to K-12 learning loss at the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). The bill also includes $39.9 billion in funding to support colleges and universities. Now that this major piece of legislation has been enacted, lawmakers’ attention will turn to appropriations for the coming fiscal year. In addition, discussions will begin for another aid bill targeted for later in the spring that will be more broadly focused on recovery and infrastructure.