What Educators Need to Know About ESSER COVID-19 Relief Funds

Each ESSER fund (ESSER, ESSER II, and ARP ESSER) must be used to address the impact COVID-19 has had and continues to have on elementary and secondary schools. There are currently three phases of funding for COVID-19 relief:

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ESSER I: In March 2020, the U.S. Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in response to the pandemic; this act included approximately $13.2 billion for The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund.

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ESSER II: In December 2020, Congress passed the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act, which provides an additional $54.3 billion in an ESSER II Fund.

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ESSER III: In March 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act into law. This act includes the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) Fund, which allocates $126 billion for K–12 schools.

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How to Receive Your Funds

Staff Training - Green Office Folder on Background of Working Table with Stationery and Laptop. Staff Training Business Concept on Blurred Background. Staff Training Toned Image. 3D.Funds are allocated to each state in the same proportion as their Title I, Part A grants. For ESSER I and ESSER II, the U.S. Department of Education has distributed funds directly to state education agencies (SEAs). ESSER III/ARP ESSER funds distribution began in March 2021.

Each school district must apply to its state’s SEA (the Department of Education or Office of Public Instruction) to receive its funding. You can see the funding each state received:

Each SEA has its own process, so please continue to monitor your state’s SEA for information on the steps you need to take to receive funding.

Comparing the Three ESSER Funding Packages

ESSER Funding (2020 CARES) ESSER II Fund (2021 CRRSA) ARP ESSER (2021 ARP Act)
Deadline to Use Funds
Funds must be used by September 30, 2021 and may be used for costs dating back to March 13, 2020. Funds must be used by September 30, 2022 and may be used for costs dating back to March 13, 2020. Funds must be used by September 30, 2023 and may be used for costs dating back to March 13, 2020.
SEA Deadline for Awarding Funds to Local Education Agencies (LEAs)
The SEA must award the funds within one year of receiving them. The specific date varies with each SEA, but it will fall between April and June 2021. The SEA must award the funds by January 2022, which will be one year from the time they received the funds. The SEA must allocate ARP ESSER funds to LEAs no later than 60 days after the SEA receives the funds.
SEA Requirements for Using Funds
There are no percentage requirements. There are no percentage requirements. SEAs may keep about 12% of the funding and must spend at least 5% on learning loss, 1% on summer learning, and 1% on after-school programs.
LEA Requirements for Using Funds
There are no percentage requirements. There are no percentage requirements. An LEA must reserve at least 20% of funds to address learning loss through implementing evidence-based interventions (summer learning, extended day, or after-school programs). These programs must respond to students' academic, social, and emotional needs, and they must address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on underrepresented student subgroups. The remaining ARP ESSER funds may be used for the same purchases allowed under ESSER and ESSER II.
Reopening Plans
There are no requirements for establishing a reopening plan. There are no requirements for establishing a reopening plan. Within 30 days of receiving funds, the LEA must publish on its website a plan for the safe return to in-person learning and continuity of services. Before making the plan publicly available, the LEA must seek public comment on the plan.
Nonpublic Schools (Equitable Services)
An LEA that receives ESSER funding must provide equitable services to students and teachers in nonpublic schools. LEAs are not required to provide equitable services because this act has a separate program (Emergency Assistance for Nonpublic Schools) that allows nonpublic schools to apply to an SEA and receive services. LEAs are not required to provide equitable services because the ARP includes the Emergency Assistance for Nonpublic Schools program.

Using Your Esser Funding

Districts have the flexibility to use the ESSER funds on any "activity authorized by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act," including assessments, instructional materials, software, hardware, professional development, connectivity, teacher pay, and summer school activities.

The ESSER II legislation specifically mentioned that funds can be used to help address students' learning loss. ESSER III from the American Rescue Plan included funding set-asides at both the state and district level to mitigate learning loss.

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Make the Most of CARES Act and American Rescue Plan—ESSER 2021 Funds

ASCD Virtual Professional Learning Solutions qualify for purchase with a variety of federal funds. This chart identifies those solutions most closely aligned to address learning loss using evidence-based instruction.

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Virtual Professional Learning Package

ASCD Virtual Professional Learning packages are modules designed to be flexible and tailored to meet the individual needs of schools and districts. The learning is delivered using interactive technology tools educators can use in their classrooms the next day. Each module is designed with a 90-minute workshop and a 90-minute coaching session.

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Customized Learning Bundle

ASCD's 10-hour learning bundles give you the flexibility to address the needs of your district or school consecutively or spaced throughout the year. You select from any combination of remote keynote speakers, collaborative workshops, and one-on-one support by our ASCD Faculty to choose what works best for your team.

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ASCD Activate®

The ASCD Activate® professional learning library gives your educators voice and ensures that your staff engages in continuous learning throughout the year.

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Whole Child Learning Package

An experienced practitioner walks you through the process of addressing each key tenet of the Whole Child Approach. ASCD becomes your consultative source to facilitate the process to define the needs of your school or district.

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Please contact us with any questions, or to discuss purchasing or piloting our programs.

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