SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) — Governor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday announced that the Biden-Harris Administration has approved California’s request to utilize Medi-Cal funding to provide voluntary COVID-19 testing for low-income students covered by the program.

The move will provide further support for the reopening of schools to in-person instruction in underserved communities, the release issued by the governor’s office stated.

The announcement of additional funding for low-income student COVID testing comes just days after Newsom and other state officials announced their plan to incentivize reopening schools with $6.6 billion in funds.

“I am grateful to our federal partners for approving our request to expand testing for low-income students to ensure schools can reopen safely in underserved neighborhoods that are bearing the brunt of pandemic hardships,” Newsom said in the release. “Our top priority is getting students back in the classroom to not only meet their learning needs, but also their mental health and social-emotional needs.”

The initial request had been made by the California Department of Health Care Services on on December 24 of last year to provide COVID-19 testing in schools for Medi-Cal children in grades transitional kindergarten through 12. The request to the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has been approved retroactive to February 1 and will continue for 60 days after the end of the federal public health emergency, the governor’s office said.

Medi‐Cal is the primary health care provider for more than half of the state’s population under the age of 20. For schools electing to implement COVID-19 testing as an additional mitigation layer — especially those serving communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic — the state and federal governments will now cover much of the testing costs.

“As a pediatrician and father, I know schools are a vital place for our kids where in-person learning has a positive impact on their overall health and well-being,” said California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly. “Further leveraging our state Medicaid program to increase access to testing will not only help us to reopen schools, but also ensure that testing becomes even more accessible for underserved students.”