Tracking CARES Act Spending in Education

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve been keeping you up to date on its impact on states, schools, and spending. One area that we have been particularly focused on is the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) of which nearly $40 billion was allocated for K-12 and higher education. Schools can use CARES Education Stabilization Funds (ESF) for everything from personal protective equipment (PPE) and technology to professional development and resources to support mental and physical health for students. MDR continues to track the implementation of this important stimulus program so that you have access to how the funding has been allocated and how it is being spent.

The CARES Act was passed on March 26, 2020, with the intention of making the funds available as soon as possible to districts through their states. A September 2020 report on COVID-19 spending from the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) reveals that while 99% of the funds for education were secured by states by July 31, only 3% of the money had been spent. The report indicates that state education leaders attribute a number of factors to the low spend rates, such as:

  • Developing new health and safety practices for reopening schools
  • Waiting for state budget allocations
  • Supply chain issues for needed products
  • The usual challenges that accompany managing new grant programs
  • Uncertainty about future aid

Now that school is back in session — whether remote or face-to-face —some of those factors may have been resolved and the funds need to be spent by September 2021.

Looking to the future, states and school districts are anticipating another round of aid through the next stimulus bill under consideration by Congress. However, it is unclear if, and when, this new package will be passed. MDR will continue to follow the progress of this new aid package for schools and provide you with updates so that you can navigate this changing environment. For access to CARES allocations, log in to MDR Marketview.