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Elementary & Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER)

What is ESSER?

ESSER Relief Fund is just one way the U.S. government has stepped in to support schools throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

Since the onset of Coronavirus in the U.S., the country has faced many hardships on top of the lives lost. These challenging times have impacted individuals, business, schools, and more. The government has offered large amounts of funding to help keep the economy afloat. 

To date, the U.S. Congress has passed six relief packages aimed at providing assistance to individuals and businesses who are dealing with the economic fallout since the pandemic began. In total, the stimulus packages amount to approximately $4 trillion in spending. 

Three of the stimulus packages include funding for elementary and secondary schools. The funding is entitled the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund. 

Elementary and Secondary School Relief: When, Where, and How Much? 
The first batch of ESSER funds was part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security or CARES Act. The act was passed in March, 2020. When the U.S. Congress set aside $13.5 billion to be spent on elementary and secondary school emergency relief, the CARES Act created the ESSER fund. 

At the end of 2020 (December, 2020), Congress passed The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA). It allocated an additional $54.3 billion for ESSER and is referred to as the ESSER II fund. 

And the most recent stimulus package which included funds for ESSER—The American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act—was passed by Congress in March, 2021. It added just under $123 billion to the ESSER coffers and is known as the ESSER III fund.

What are the authorized activities for ESSER grants?

The ESSER grants are intended to help states and LEAs safely reopen schools, measure and effectively address significant learning loss, and take other actions to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the students and families who depend on our K-12 schools. The following activities are allowable: 
(a) Activities authorized under ESEA, IDEA, Perkins, McKinney-Vento subtitle B, Adult Education and Family Literacy Acts. 

(b) Coordinate preparedness and response efforts of LEA with state, local, Tribal, and territorial public health departments and other relevant agencies to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19. 

(c) Activities to address unique needs of low-income students, students with disabilities, English learners, racial and ethnic minorities, students experiencing homelessness, foster youth. 

(d) Develop and implement procedures and systems to improve the preparedness and response efforts of LEA. 

(e) Training and PD for staff of LEA on sanitation and minimizing spread of infectious diseases. 

(f) Purchase supplies to clean and sanitize facilities of the LEA. 

(g) Planning for and coordinating during long-term closures (meals, technology, IDEA, and other educational services provided consistent with Federal, state, local requirements). 

(h) Purchase educational technology (including hardware, software, and connectivity) for students served by LEA, including low-income and IDEA. 

(i) Provide mental health services and supports. 

(j) Plan and implement summer learning and supplemental afterschool activities. 

(k) Addressing learning loss by: administering and using high-quality assessments to assess students’ academic progress and meet students’ academic needs, including through differentiating instruction; implementing evidence-based activities to meet the comprehensive needs of students; providing information and assistance to parent and families on how they can effectively support students, including in a distance learning environment; and/or tracking student attendance and improving student engagement in distance education. 

(l) School facility repairs and improvements to enable operation of schools to reduce risk of virus transmission and exposure to environmental health hazards, and to support student health needs. 

(m) Inspection, testing, maintenance, repair, replacement, and upgrade projects to improve the indoor air quality in school facilities, including mechanical and nonmechanical heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, filtering, purification and other air cleaning, fans, control systems, and window and door repair and replacement. 

(n) Provide principals and other school leaders with resources necessary to address needs of their individual schools (ESSER I and II); Developing strategies and implementing public health protocols including, to the greatest extent practicable, policies in line with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the reopening and operation of school facilities to effectively maintain the health and safety of students, educators, and other staff (ARP ESSER). 

(o) Other activities necessary to maintain the operations and continuity of services in the LEA and continuing to employ existing staff of the LEA.
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