Historically Black Colleges in Pa. awarded $3M to resume operations safely

PLBC lauds grants as part of its platform to prioritize COVID funding for communities of color

PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 4 – State Rep. Stephen Kinsey, D-Phila., and members of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus, today said they are encouraged by the recent award of $3 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to Historically Black Colleges and Universities in Pennsylvania. Kinsey leads the PLBC as its chairman.

According to the lawmakers, Lincoln University was awarded $2.25 million and Cheyney University was awarded $750,000 to aid school administrators in creating safe and healthy learning environments amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The students at Lincoln and Cheyney universities are shining examples of leadership in an otherwise difficult world,” said state Rep. Jim Roebuck, Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee and PLBC member. “This funding will help administrators to continue the excellent education and opportunities they normally provide, while doing so safely,”

In late spring, Kinsey and the PLBC encouraged state and federal officials to not only recognize racial and ethnic groups in coronavirus data but also prioritize funding for Black and brown communities hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“While there have been longstanding racial and economic disparities in education, the COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated the danger to communities of color,” Kinsey said. “We in the PLBC were very discouraged by the disproportionate number of coronavirus cases and deaths affecting people of color.

“While there’s still work to be done, with this funding, we can be encouraged,” he said.

The PLBC included higher education in its COVID-19 relief platform. Members of the caucus suggested that $250 million be set aside to address student loan debt for borrowers across the state, and $20 million for Pennsylvania's historically black colleges and universities -- $10 million for Cheyney University and $10 million for Lincoln University.

The recent grant funding is part of $28 million in federal money allocated to educational institutions across Pennsylvania and can be used toward the safe reopening of schools considering the COVID-19 pandemic. Funds can be used for a variety of safety initiatives, including purchasing protective equipment and hand sanitizer/cleaning products, equipment or technology to take classrooms online, installation of barriers or other protective devices in building structures, or to purchase health apps to assist in contact tracing and monitoring students.

Administered by the state Department of Education, the federal funding was based on the shares of total enrollments by each postsecondary sector and the number of socioeconomically disadvantaged students served by institutions.

“Our students deserve to return to the classroom, either virtually or on campus, knowing that their government is doing everything possible to ensure their health and safety," said state Rep. Donna Bullock, the PLBC's vice chairwoman. "It is even more important to target these funds in schools and communities that are most impacted by this continually-evolving and still deadly pandemic. I am happy to see these funds going to Pennsylvania’s HBCUs.”