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A school marquee shows when time stood still after the coronavirus pandemic closed all Louisiana Schools along with the Paul B. Habans School in Algiers, Wednesday, April 15, 2020. (Photo by David Grunfeld, NOLA.com, The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)

Louisiana public schools are set to get an estimated $287 million and child care providers nearly $10 million to help offset problems sparked by the coronavirus pandemic, officials said Thursday.

The aid is coming from the $2.2 trillion federal rescue package – called the CARES Act – aimed at stabilizing the economy amid skyrocketing unemployment claims and the shuttering of much of the nation's economy.

Public schools were closed on March 16 and Gov. John Bel Edwards signed a proclamation Wednesday directing classes to remain closed for the rest of the academic year because of the virus.

Superintendents have said the stimulus aid could be vital in efforts to finance summer school or other activities as educators try to reduce learning gaps sparked by students missing about nine weeks of traditional instruction.

Child care centers are allowed to operate but nearly 70% of licensed facilities in the state have closed amid plummeting attendance, mostly because of health concerns.

Providers said in a survey taken last month that they have already lost $1.7 million because of the virus, a figure that is likely much higher today.

The state has not gotten its allocation of dollars for public schools.

However, the Congressional Research Service estimates that Louisiana is in line to get $287 million.

Catherine Pozniak, assistant state superintendent of education, said the money can be used by school districts for a wide range of coronavirus-related reasons, including summer school.

The money would be the state's portion of a roughly $30 billion allotment for public schools and colleges and universities in the federal legislation.

Colleges in Louisiana are set to get $147.1 million.

Both public schools and colleges will also get a portion of a third part of the bill called the Governor's Emergency Education Relief Fund, which totals $50 million.

Pozniak said state officials are expected to learn details of the state's public school aid in the next few weeks.

The money is based largely on federal Title I aid, which is aimed at assisting students from low-income families.

About two-thirds of the state's nearly 720,000 students fit that description. The state usually gets about $330 million per years in Title I dollars.

The nearly $10 million for child care sites is aimed at keeping centers open or allowing those shut down to resume operations.

The money will benefit about 900 providers statewide who take part in the Child Care Assistance Program, which assists low-income families with child care costs while parents work, attend school or undergo job training.

The centers targeted serve more than 58,000 children from birth to age 13.

Child care providers can apply for the financial assistance through a form due by April 23 and available at www.louisianabelieves.com.

State officials have said most children attending early learning centers are the sons and daughters of doctors, nurses and other critical workers.

The state earlier launched a program to assist those families regardless of income.

"In normal times child care providers are a linchpin of our society," Assistant Superintendent Jessica Baghian said in a statement. "In these scary and uncertain times the work of those remaining open is a matter of life and death." 

A survey by the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children said one-third of providers who responded said an extended closure would force them to remain closed permanently.


Email Will Sentell at wsentell@theadvocate.com.