Press Release

AFT Announces Second Round of Innovation Fund COVID-19 Response Grants

For Release:


Oriana Korin

WASHINGTON—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and Executive Vice President Evelyn DeJesus issued the following statement announcing the second round of AFT Innovation Fund COVID-19 response grants totaling $600,000 to help support 16 local and state union affiliates’ efforts to mitigate the short- and long-term effects of COVID-19 in their communities.

Weingarten said:

“We started the AFT Innovation Fund years ago to provide some resources to educators so they could transform their ideas and ingenuity into action and practice for their students. Educators’ dedication and commitment has never been on display more clearly than during the past year with the COVID-19 crisis, when educators and school staff have moved heaven and earth to meet the needs of their kids—from social and emotional engagement projects to helping bridge the digital divide.

“We are glad we could find some union-backed resources to help educators and their locals support our students in this moment of need.

“As the pandemic wears on, students, families and educators are experiencing mounting stress, trauma and fatigue. But educators are resilient, and with their unions and partners, they keep working in extraordinary ways. While we continue to fight for the critical federal relief our schools need, these grants provide their recipients with immediate relief—to help them support students struggling with mental health challenges by promoting well-being and enhancing social-emotional learning in schools, address food insecurity through the establishment of food pantries, tackle infrastructure problems to ensure safe ventilation in school buildings, expand the instructional component of community schools, and bridge the digital divide by ensuring students have access to reliable internet and digital resources for hybrid and distance learning.”

DeJesus said:

“We’re thrilled to help support educators who have stepped up during such a difficult time, and we hope these grants help them do that, above and beyond the work that teachers are known for. While we work safely toward a semblance of normal for schools, so many of our members have identified pressing needs due to the increased stress and trauma of the pandemic and the challenges related to distance learning and getting schools reopen safely. Despite unprecedented demands on their time and an increasing need for resources, our members never stop working, and the Innovation Fund is always proud to step in and help fund that effort.”

The AFT is pleased to announce 16 grantees in this second round of funding, totaling approximately $600,000. Grantees include:

AFT Pennsylvania: Will develop a new program for remote instruction and training for educators to improve in-person and hybrid teaching and learning.

Brevard Federation of Teachers (Fla.): Will strengthen and expand several programs, including its employee assistance program, an educator mental health course, and mental health education for elementary students.

Chicago Teachers Union: Will train 20 educators working at its sustainable community schools to teach an anti-racist curriculum.

Copenhagen Teachers’ Association (N.Y.): Will develop a mindfulness curriculum, purchase yoga equipment for the classroom and expand its food-filled backpack program to battle food insecurity.

Corpus Christi AFT (Texas): Will establish a wellness and calm room to promote mental health for educators at Zavala Elementary School.

Education Austin (Texas): Will create a food pantry and book distribution expansion, and will help with COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

Houston Federation of Teachers: Will develop a mindfulness course and curricula for educators’ individual practice and for teaching students and families, to promote calmness, better decision-making, and improved discipline and behavior in the school setting.

Jefferson Federation of Teachers (La.): Will host trainings on technology for PSRPs and families across the school district to bridge the digital divide. It will provide internet hotspots and Chromebooks to union members and families who are low-income, Black, Indigenous or people of color.

LaFargeville Teachers Association (N.Y.): Will provide students and families mobile internet hotspots to fulfill all virtual and hybrid-based learning needs across its rural region.

La Joya AFT (Texas): Will install carbon dioxide detectors in its school districts’ classrooms to monitor air quality and identify any necessary HVAC operating and capacity issues in the schools.

La Porte Federation of Teachers (Ind.): Will bolster and expand its school district’s digital library catalogue by buying more than 1,000 new titles.

Lawrence Teachers Union (Mass.): Will create virtual social and emotional learning professional development for educators to work with students both in person and virtually.

OSEA Eugene Chapter 1 (OR): Will establish and build a restorative practices program in its OSEA Eugene Chapter 1 and in district schools, which will serve as a blueprint for expansion in chapters and school districts across the state.

St. Thomas – St. John Federation of Teachers (Virgin Islands): Will create professional learning for teachers around new pedagogies, tools and techniques to deliver and improve blended teaching and learning.

United Federation of Teachers (New York City): Will create a partnership with Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility to train teachers in social-emotional learning strategies, ultimately developing a coaching program to implement in other schools.

White Plains Teachers Association (N.Y.): Will establish six new food pantries and clothes closets at schools as well as expand its existing food pantry.

# # # #

The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.