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Letter to Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader; Charles Schumer, Senate Minority Leader; Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House; and Kevin McCarthy, House Minority Leader - Norcross, Booker Urge House and Senate Leadership to Strengthen Support for Children of Migrant Workers in the Next COVID-19 Relief Package

Letter

Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, and Minority
Leader McCarthy:

As the Senate anticipates consideration of a fourth supplemental appropriations package in
response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we respectfully request that $300 million in additional
emergency appropriations be directed to the ESSA Title I, Part C Migrant Education Program
and $350 million be directed to the Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Program. Migrant children
and families are under tremendous strain as this coronavirus pandemic continues to have an
inequitable impact on families' health, education, and economic stability. This additional relief
would equip the Migrant Education Program and Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Program to
cover the additional costs associated with safely resuming services for migrant families and to
meet the added needs caused by COVID-19.

The agricultural sector, which depends on migrant farmworkers, contributes over $1 trillion to
the U.S. economy. Over 300,000 children relocate across the country multiple times each year,
as their families pursue seasonal work in the nation's fruit, vegetable, dairy, tobacco,
meatpacking, and fishing industries. Thousands of blueberry pickers, for example, start their
season in Florida, and travel to Georgia, North Carolina, New Jersey, and Michigan over the
course of the year. Having to change schools so frequently presents profound challenges for the
children of migrant farmworkers, who experience frequent disruptions to their learning and must adjust to new classes, new teachers, and new peers with every move. In 2015, the U.S.Department of Education estimated that just half of migrant children graduate from high school.

The COVID-19 pandemic is compounding the hardships that the children of migrant
farmworkers face, as the public institutions migrant families usually rely on, including schools,
Head Start centers, and afterschool programs, remain shuttered. Deemed "essential workers,"
migrant families rarely have access to paid family leave. Migrant farmworkers are thereby
forced to choose between staying home, and likely lose their job for doing so, leaving their
children at home without adult supervision, or bringing them to work, which would expose
minors to pesticides and other hazardous conditions. Additionally, migrant children of all ages
are under tremendous pressure to work alongside their families in the fields, provide child care to
siblings, and often lack access to the internet or connected devices. Migrant children already
have significant academic, social, and emotional needs that will compound their learning loss
due to school closures.

Founded in 1966, the Title I, Part C Migrant Education Program (MEP) funds state and
community-based programs that identify eligible migrant children and provide education and
support services to them. In 2016-17, the Migrant Education Program served nearly 220,000
migrant children, from age 3 through 21. MEP funding was directed to 47 states in FY 2015,
with the largest allocations going to California, Texas, Washington, Kansas, and Oregon. With
schools closed, Migrant Education Programs have experienced increased demand for their
services. At the same time, the safeguards needed to safely educate children, including
purchasing personal protective equipment and implementing smaller class sizes, makes doing so
even more expensive.

The Migrant and Seasonal Head Start (MSHS) Program was founded in 1969 and provides
critical child care, medical, dental, instructional, and nutritional services to nearly 30,000 migrant children up to age 5. Over 60 MSHS programs operate in 38 states, and are open for
more hours each day than most other Head Start programs to accommodate the longer workdays
of farmworker parents. COVID-19 has forced over 90 percent of Head Start programs
nationwide to temporarily close, including nearly all MSHS programs.

To address the urgent and widespread challenges faced by the children of migrant farmworkers
during the COVID-19 crisis, we urge you to appropriate an additional $300 million for the ESSA
Title I, Part C Migrant Education Program and $350 million for the Migrant and Seasonal Head
Start Program in the next COVID-19 supplemental package. State and community-based migrant
education programs would immediately use emergency funds to:

 Provide health, hygiene, and counseling services and other social-emotional supports to
migrant children, whose family members are at heightened risk of contracting COVID-19
and falling ill from the virus;
 Secure personal protective equipment and sanitizing supplies for MEP and MSHS
facilities to comply with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local
public health authorities' guidelines;
 Hire additional teaching and support staff necessary to continue providing services to
qualified children while complying with CDC guidelines, including social distancing
guidelines;
 Purchase technology to enable distance learning, including laptops and internet hotspots,
and cover costs associated with instructional software, training and support to ensure that
migrant children and families can access virtual classrooms and other learning
opportunities;
 Operate virtual and in-person learning centers and migrant summer school for schoolaged children whose schools are closed due to COVID-19; and
 Transport the children of migrant farmworkers, in compliance with CDC social
distancing guidelines, to MEP and MSHS facilities.

The security of our nation's food supply hinges on migrant farmworkers. Yet none of the
COVID-19 relief packages that Congress has passed so far this year have included funding
specifically supporting the children of migrant farmworkers. As harvesting season is underway
in much of the country, and as increasing reports emerge of COVID-19 outbreaks at farm and
meat processing facilities, there is an urgent need to strengthen public supports for migrant
children. Supplemental funding for the ESSA Title I, Part C Migrant Education Program and the Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Program would leverage existing programs to meet this
pressing demand.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to working with you to ensure that
all of our nation's students, particularly migrant children, have the resources they need to
continue to be successful.

Sincerely,


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