Senators Shaheen, Hassan, & Colleagues Call On Senate Leadership to Fund Summer Enrichment Opportunities for Low-Income Children in Next COVID-19 Relief Package

February 12, 2021

WASHINGTON— U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH), a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee joined their colleagues in urging Senate leadership to include funding for summer enrichment opportunities for low-income children in the next COVID-19 relief package. In a letter, the Senators stressed COVID-19’s disproportionate effects on low-income families and underscored the necessity of setting aside funding for summer programs to help prevent learning loss and promote social and emotional development for particularly vulnerable communities.

“Due to COVID-19, millions of students have been learning remotely and missing out on extracurricular activities, sports, and summer camp in order to adhere to social distancing guidelines necessary to stem the spread of COVID-19. This interruption will result in academic achievement loss and potentially delay children’s social and emotional development as they lose classroom time and opportunities to spend with peers,” the Senators wrote. “This is particularly true for low-income students. It is vital that Congress provide dedicated funding to ensure these students have access to high-quality summer enrichment opportunities.”

The Senators concluded: “It is critical that Congress provides sufficient support for meaningful summer programming that supports children’s academic, mental and physical health, and social emotional needs. We urge you to include dedicated funding in the next COVID-19 relief package to support local educational agencies, community-based organizations, municipalities, or any consortium of the three to provide quality summer enrichment programs and meet additional staff needs for new programming.”

Senators Shaheen and Hassan are fighting to support low-income students and ensure that they are receiving a high-quality education amid this challenging pandemic. Senators Shaheen and Hassan and a group of colleagues urged the Federal Communications Commission to provide internet connectivity devices to students who lack internet access at home and are disproportionally from communities of color, low-income households, Tribal lands, and rural areas. Last December, Senators Hassan and Susan Collins (R-ME) led their colleagues, including Senator Shaheen, in successfully reversing a Department of Education decision under the previous administration that jeopardized funding for nearly 200 rural, low-income school districts. 

A full copy of the letter can be found below or click here.

 

Dear Majority Leader Schumer and Minority Leader McConnell:

 

We write today to request you to provide dedicated funding in the next COVID-19 relief package for summer enrichment opportunities for low-income children.

Due to COVID-19, millions of students have been learning remotely and missing out on extracurricular activities, sports, and summer camp in order to adhere to social distancing guidelines necessary to stem the spread of COVID-19. This interruption will result in academic achievement loss and potentially delay children’s social and emotional development as they lose classroom time and opportunities to spend with peers. This is particularly true for low-income students. It is vital that Congress provide dedicated funding to ensure these students have access to high-quality summer enrichment opportunities.

While wealthier students have access to a bevy of extracurricular and summer options, low-income students do not. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, more than half of students experienced summer learning losses five years in a row. These students, on average, lose nearly 40 percent of their school year gains during the summer, often referred to as “summer slide.” The pandemic has only exacerbated the “summer slide.” This and next summer are opportunities to not only tackle increased learning loss, but to also provide students with summer enrichment programs to address their mental health, physical health, and social emotional needs.

Summer camps and enrichment programs have been shown to have positive academic effects—including improvements in math, reading skills, and social and emotional skills—even when academic content is not the focus of the program. However, even in a typical year, middle-class students are five times as likely as those living in poverty to attend summer camps, and twice as likely to visit a museum or attend a performance. The pandemic has only worsened this summer enrichment gap. As the country prepares for the summer, Congress needs to provide dedicated assistance for summer enrichment programs, not only to improve academic achievement, but also to provide opportunities for play and exercise, to learn a new hobby or skill, develop leadership and teamwork skills, and to help students address the trauma of COVID-19.

While school districts may use Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds to support summer enrichment programs, the countless competing challenges for school districts makes it hard for them to prioritize summer programs and to have the capacity to run summer programs. In addition, community-based programs and municipal recreation programs are struggling to make ends meet. Last summer, nearly two out of every three summer camps opted to remain closed, with an estimated revenue loss of $16 billion. These closures meant that 900,000 young workers did not have seasonal jobs and 19.5 million children did not have summer experiences.

Currently, there is only one federal program at the Department of Education that funds summer programs, which cannot come close to meeting the need to provide equitable access to high-quality summer enrichment opportunities. Even without COVID-19, there is an unmet need, considering that only one out of every three applications are funded. Before the pandemic, more than 26 million youth were eligible to attend federally-funded summer and afterschool programs, but funding allowed only 1.7 million to participate.

It is critical that Congress provides sufficient support for meaningful summer programming that supports children’s academic, mental and physical health, and social emotional needs. We urge you to include dedicated funding in the next COVID-19 relief package to support local educational agencies, community-based organizations, municipalities, or any consortium of the three to provide quality summer enrichment programs and meet additional staff needs for new programming. 

Press Contact