For all those dealing with federal dollars for K-12 schools, are you ready for more money? There’s more money on the way. So far, we here in Mississippi are spending funds from the (1) CARES Act (ESSER I) passed in March 2020 and are currently (2) completing applications for the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act Act (CRRSA – ESSER II) passed in December 2020. Congress then passed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARP- ESSER or ESSER III as some are calling it) in March 2021. This application should are available in mid-April. Each Act authorized increasing available dollars to K-12 states and districts.
CARES – ESSER I – 13.2 Billion – closes Sept. 30, 2022
CRRSA – ESSER II – 54 Billion – closes Sept. 30, 2023
ARP – ESSER III – 126 Billion – closes Sept. 3, 2024
If you do the math, you will see that ARP will provide about 2.3 times the amount as a district received for ESSER II. If you want to calculate an approximate amount your district might receive with ESSER III funds, you can use this link: HR133ESSERStimulusAllocations
So what differs in the allowability of how to spend these funds? The truth is very little; however, ESSER II and ESSER III added to the original twelve allowable users for ESSER I the following allowable uses. Yet, from what I have read, these items were allowable uses for the CARES ESSER I funds as well.
- Using evidence-based approaches to address learning loss
- School facility repairs and improvements to reduce risk of virus transmission and exposure to environmental health hazards and to support student health needs
- Inspecting, testing, maintaining, repairing, replacing, and upgrading projects to improve the indoor air quality in school facilities, including HVAC systems, filtering, purification and other air cleaning, fans, control systems, and window and door repair and replacement
To see a full side-by-side listing of the allowable activities go to https://districtadministration.com/side-by-side-esser-esser-ii-and-arp-esser-allowable-activities/.
As one plans for spending these funds, it is important to remember two things.
- ARP ESSER has added the requirement that 20% of the funds must be used for addressing learning loss.
- According to the information we have received from the Mississippi Department of Education and the interpretation from EDGAR, any construction and repair of school facilities must be completed and in use prior to the closing date of the grant.
This means you will have to balance using funds for construction and repair of buildings with spending 20% for learning loss. You might want to consider budgeting much of the construction in the CRRSA ESSER II budget as long as you can complete your project and be using the facility by Sept. 30, 2023. By doing so, this may allow you more leeway to budget for the 20% for learning loss. Many districts are budgeting multiple year salaries to help with this.
One final thing, don’t forget that districts can use the unrestricted indirect cost rate. This is a bonus for the districts.
Happy budgeting and spending!