2020 CARES Act - Elementary & Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSERF)

Published: April 30, 2020

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Overview of the Education Stabilization Fund of the CARES Act with focus on the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund and the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund. Check back weekly for updates surrounding funding, opportunities, and allocations.

Latest Update:

Secretary DeVos Reiterates Learning Must Continue for All Students, Declines to Seek Congressional Waivers to FAPE, LRE Requirements of IDEA - see press release here. DeVos stands firm on IDEA requirements but schools continue to struggle to provide assitance to students with disabilities

The US DOE also launched a new grant program "Rethink Education" to help stimulate innovation in these unprecedented times. The program offers $307.5 million in funds for states. 

Discussion on another stimulus package has been focused primarily on funding for the E-rate program and other methods to "close the digital gap" and get wifi to all students.

The Emergency Educational Connections Act of 2020 looks to provide close to $2 billion in funding.

April 23, 2020 Update: 

It's official that funds have been allocated to state and local education agencies ($13.2 billion to be exact) to support continued learning for K-12 students whose educations have been disrupted by the coronavirus via the ESSERF of the CARES Act. This is for emergency measures of tools and resources needed for students for distance learning and keep students safe and healthy. The next big ticket item for school districts is to develop a plan and budget to approach the current state coronavirus presents and its aftermath. With many states facing drastic budget cuts like Missouri and New York, it will take expert funding use and good accessibility measures to survive the pandemic. 

Secretary DeVos is dropping words like "agile" and "rethink" and "creative" all words that need to be implemented as the US DOE is taking this seriously. States and districts need to be agile and nimble as they navigate uncharted waters by investing in sound technology initiatives; they need to reassess what education means to their students and educators by putting them first and realize a solution needs to adapt as coronavirus does not leave an end in sight; and finally they need to be crafty and now is the time more than ever to use federal flexibilities and grants to their advantage. 

As a reminder the conditions of funding are as follows:

State education agencies (SEAs) must allocate 90% of their ESSER funds to local education agencies (LEAs), including public charter schools, in proportion to the amount of FY 2019 funds the LEA received under Title I, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Up to 10% of the SEA's award may be retained for the state agency to use to address needs related to responding to coronavirus. After one year, SEAs must return any funds that have not been awarded, and the Secretary will reallocate those funds to the states. See the full briefing here (Source: US Dept. of Education).

Notable Attachments & Links:

  • To see state allocations for the ESSER Fund check out the attached PDF detailing the State Allocation Table.
  • The DOE is also "cutting red tape" and reducing delays and SEAs have until July 1, 2020 to apply for ESSER funds. For more information, please go here.
  • Today's briefing also highlights the Department's earlier initiative of a turnkey waiver process allowing states to cancel federally mandated standardized testing. See the streamlined process with funding flexibilities to repurpose existing K-12 education funds for technology infrastructure and teacher training on remote learning and to move resources to areas of highest need attached as a PDF.
  • Finally, see the US DOE website for guidelines on accessibility for students with disabilities and Career and Technical Education (CTE) extension information.

As of April 21, 2020...

all funding allocations have remained the same for the Education Stabilization Fund. Funding has been rolling out over the past few weeks with billions of dollars flowing according to the funding formula outlined in the CARES Act. That has not stopped many State leaders from asking for more which feels a little like wishful thinking as much of funding will be allocated by those who are hit hardest by COVID-19 which at this point is unknown.

The other element in Education in regards to this viral pandemic is the hardest blow in that Education will likely never be the same. COVID-19 has shown many weak points in the world of education and that the "digital gap" is not only more prevelant than ever but that it has been a major issue for years and no initiative has really addressed it fully. It should be taken seriously and throwing a chromebook at will not help. If education wants to change, which it needs to do so, it must use funding wisely and make investments soundly. Look to consultants and professional services that are experts and keep the funds in the district for the students while also spreading money when all areas of the economy are hurting.

April 13, 2020: An Overview of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund:

The $2 trillion economic stimulus package included an Education Stabilization Fund as an effort to aid all education entities across the United States as the country faces the unprecedented threats of COVID-19. Of the $2 trillion $30,750,000,000 is allocated to education entities, both primary/secondary and higher education, and will remain available through September 30, 2021, to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus. The breakdown and formula of the funding allocated to the primary/secondary education market via the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund and the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund is as follows:

  1. Not more than ½ of 1% to the outlying areas on the basis of their respective needs as determined by the Secretary of Education, in consultation with the Secretary of the Interior;
  2. ½ of 1% ($154 million) for programs operated or funded by the Bureau of Indian Education and;
  3. 1% for grants to States with the highest coronavirus burden

The funding will be administered with the following allocations:

  • 9.8% ($3 billion) for the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (section 18002)
  • 43.9% ($13.2 billion) for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (section 18003)

The remaining 46.3% ($14 billion) will go to the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (section 18004). For the state by state breakdown of the Education Stabilization Fund by funding amount see the attached spreadsheet.

The Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund

The amount of each grant goes to each State as follows:

60% on the basis of their relative population of individuals aged 5-24

40% on the basis of their relative number of children counted under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)





The use of funds are to be allocated in the following criteria:

  1. Provide emergency support through grants to local education agencies (LEA) that the State educational agency deems have been most significantly impacted by coronavirus to support the ability such local educational agencies to continue to provide educational services to their students and to support the on-going functionality of the LEA;
  2. Provide emergency support through grants to institutions of higher education serving students within the State that the Governor determines have been most significantly impacted by coronavirus to support the ability such local educational agencies to continue to provide educational services and support the ongoing functionality of the institution; and
  3. Provide support to any other institution of higher education, LEA, or education related entity within the State that the Governor deems essential for carrying out emergency educational services to students for authorized activities in section 18003 or the Higher Education Act, the provision of child care and early childhood education, social and emotional support, and the protection of education-related jobs

Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund

  • 90% of grant funds to LEAs (including charter schools) in the State in proportion to the amount of funds such local educational agencies and charter schools that are local educational agencies received under part A of title I of the ESEA of 1965 in the most recent fiscal year.

The use of funds are broken down and allocated with the following measures:

  1. Any activity authorized by the:
    1. Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)
    2. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
    3. Adult Education and Family Literacy Act
    4. Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006
    5. Subtitle B of title VII of the McKinney- Vento Homeless Assistance Act which authorizes the federal Education for Homeless Children Youth (EHCY) Program 
  2. Coordination of preparedness and response efforts of LEAs with State, local, Tribal, and territorial public health departments, and other relevant agencies, to improve coordinated responses among such entities to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.
  3. Providing principals and others school leaders with the resources necessary to address the needs of their individual schools.
  4. Activities to address the unique needs of low-income children or students, children with disabilities, English learners, racial and ethnic minorities, students experiencing homelessness, and foster care youth, including how outreach and service delivery will meet the needs of each population.
  5. Developing and implementing procedures and systems to improve the preparedness and response efforts of LEAs
  6. Training and professional development for staff of the LEA on sanitation and minimizing the spread of infectious diseases
  7. Purchasing supplies to sanitize and clean the facilities of a LEA, including buildings operated by such agency
  8. Planning for and coordinating during long-term closures, including for how to provide meals to eligible students, how to provide technology for online learning to all students, how to provide guidance for carrying out requirements under IDEA and how to ensure other educational services can continue to be provided consistent with all Federal, State, and local requirements.
  9. Purchasing educational technology (including hardware, software, and connectivity) for students who are served by the LEA that aids in regular and substantive educational interaction between students and their classroom instructors, including low-income students and students with disabilities, which may include assistive technology or adaptive equipment.
  10. Providing mental health services and supports.
  11. Planning and implementing activities related to summer learning and supplemental after school programs, including providing classroom instruction or online learning during the summer months and addressing the needs of low-income students, students with disabilities, English learners, migrant students, students experiencing homelessness, and children in foster care.
  12. Other activities that are necessary to maintain the operation of and continuity of services in local educational agencies and continuing to employ existing staff of the local educational agency.

Assistance to Non-Public Schools

A local educational agency (LEA) receiving funds under the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund or the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund shall provide equitable services in the same manner as provided under section 1117 of ESEA to students and teachers in non-public schools.

Additional Funding Measures

  • A State may reserve not more than ½ of 1% for administrative costs and the remainder for emergency needs as determined by the state educational agency to address issues responding to coronavirus, which may be addressed through the use of grants or contracts.
  • Each Governor and State shall return any funds received under the Educaiton Stabilization Fund that are not awarded within one year of receiving funds and the Secretary shall reallocate funds to the remaining States.

Please see attached files for additional funding breakdown and analysis. 

SourceU.S. Department of EducationCenter of Budget and Policy Priorities