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Article Source: The White House

Article Link: https://www.whitehouse.gov/covidplan/#prevent

Our path forward relies on giving schools and businesses the tools they need to prevent economic and educational shutdowns, so that our students can remain safe in school, our workers can be safe at work, and our economy can continue to grow.

At the beginning of last year, America was experiencing widespread school and business shutdowns: only 46% of K-12 schools were open for in-person learning, and millions of businesses had closed and tens of millions of Americans had lost their jobs in 2020. Throughout the last year, the Administration worked to provide schools, child care providers, and businesses with the necessary tools and resources to safely open, while keeping our children, students, and workers safe.

The Administration provided a historic investment of $130 billion from the American Rescue Plan to reopen schools by improving school ventilation, accessing tests, and hiring more teachers, nurses, and staff. To protect workers and keep our businesses open, the Administration launched the largest vaccination campaign in history – working hand-in-hand with the business community; and requiring vaccinations where we could, including for federal workers.

Today, about 99% of K-12 schools are open for in-person learning. And since President Biden took office, there has been historic job growth. The U.S. economy created 6.6 million jobs in 2021 – the strongest job growth of any year on record – and grew 5.7% in 2021, the fastest pace of economic growth in nearly four decades. The U.S. was also the first major economy to exceed its pre-pandemic economic output.

The path forward in the fight against COVID-19 is clear: schools, workers, and workplaces have resources and guidance to prevent shutdowns.

The Administration will work with Congress to secure the necessary funding to:

  1. Give schools and businesses guidance, tests, and supplies to stay open, including tools to improve ventilation and air filtration.

The U.S. government will also provide a Clean Air in Buildings Checklist that all buildings can use to improve indoor ventilation and air filtration and will encourage uptake of ventilation improvements. The Administration will also provide technical assistance that encourages schools, public buildings, and state, local, and Tribal governments to make ventilation improvements and upgrades using American Rescue Plan funds.

2. Work with Congress to provide paid sick leave to workers who need to miss work due to a case of COVID-⁠19 or to care for a loved one who has COVID-⁠19.

The Administration will work with Congress to reinstate tax credits to help small- and mid-size businesses provide paid sick and family leave to deal with COVID-related absences.

3. Update guidance for employers to ensure safer workplaces.

The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will update workplace guidance to better equip employers with the tools they need to ensure safe workplaces, including guidance on how employers can continue to support increased vaccination and boosting of their employees; support workers such as people who are immunocompromised who choose to wear high-quality masks; limit workplace-based infections; and enhance ventilation.

4. Engage early care and education providers to help them remain safely open and help parents return to work with peace of mind.

Early care and education providers, including child care centers, family child care providers, pre-K and more, have been essential in our fight against COVID-19. The Administration invested $40 billion in American Rescue Plan funds to states, territories, and Tribes to help child care providers and Head Start grantees keep their doors open and provide safe care that is crucial for parents getting back to work. Building on this funding, the Administration will continue to engage the community of early care and education providers to ensure they have tools and support to stay safely open and to continue supporting our families.

5. With the vast majority of federal workers at their workplaces, substantially expand levels of services at public-facing federal offices (like local Social Security offices).

COVID-19 no longer needs to dictate how we work. Federal agencies will lead by example, increasing the hours public-facing federal offices are open for in-person appointments and in-person interactions in the month of April.