Three stimulus bills passed by Congress in 2020 and 2021 allocate nearly $190 billion to K-12 education through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund.
- ESSER I: The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, passed in March 2020, provided $13.2 billion to the ESSER fund.
- ESSER II: The Coronavirus Recovery and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act, passed in December 2020, allocated over $54 billion to the ESSER fund.
- ESSER III: The American Rescue Plan (ARP), passed in March 2021, provided more than $122 billion to the ESSER fund.
The allowable uses of the funds give principals and local education agencies (LEAs) wide latitude for decision-making to fit the needs of their individual schools and districts, with an emphasis on addressing student learning loss during COVID-19.
How Can Schools Use the ESSER Funds?
The bills outline allowable uses of ESSER funds that fall into three general categories:
1. Learning and Learning Loss
- Purchasing education technology to support remote or hybrid instruction
- Planning and implementing summer or after-school programming
- Administering and using high-quality assessments that are valid and reliable to accurately assess students’ academic progress and assist educators in meeting students’ academic needs, including through differentiating instruction.
- Implementing evidence-based activities to meet the comprehensive needs of students.
- Providing information and assistance to parents and families on how they can effectively support students, including in a distance learning environment.
- Tracking student attendance and improving student engagement in distance education.
2. Activities Already Allowed
The funds can be used for any activities already permitted under:
- Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA)
- Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
- Carl Perkins Career & Technical Education Act
- McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act
So, if a use case already qualifies under one of these acts, then it would qualify under the stimulus funds.
3. COVID-Preparedness and PPE
- Improving coordination to slow the spread of COVID-19
- Supporting school district efforts to improve preparedness
- Training staff on the best ways to sanitize schools and proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Purchasing PPE and the supplies needed to clean and disinfect schools
- Planning for school closures
When do the ESSER funds expire?
Districts can effectively spend this money for use in three school years: ’20–’21, ’21–’22, and ’22–’23.
- ESSER I funds expire September 30, 2021.
- ESSER II funds expire September 30, 2022.
- ESSER III funds expire September 30, 2023.
All three funds may be used for costs dating back to March 13, 2020, when the U.S. declared a national emergency.