After months of back and forth, a new COVID-19 relief package was approved and signed into law on December 27, 2020. It includes $82 billion for the Education Stabilization Fund, a significant addition to the $30.75 billion that was allocated when the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was approved in March 2020.
The majority of the new funding, $54.3 billion, is for K-12 public schools in the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER). In fact, the new direct K-12 relief is more than four times what districts received under the first round of the CARES Act. Higher education institutions will receive $22.7 billion in new funding, up from $13 billion allocated in the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) in March 2020.
An additional $4.1 billion is set aside in the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER) for K-12 and higher ed, with $2.75 billion of that reserved for private K-12 schools. Other funds are allocated to programs such as Historically Black Colleges and Universities, tribal colleges, and minority-serving institutions, including Bureau of Indian Affairs-operated schools.
Similar to the first round of CARES Act funding, the latest COVID-19 relief aid allows for a broad range of uses to stabilize schools. Schools can use the new allocations to lessen the impact of the pandemic on learning with investments in solutions to address learning loss and updates to school facilities and infrastructure, and to purchase education technology.
All indications are that while the CARES Act funds have been awarded, expenditures have been a bit slow. A September 2020 report on COVID-19 spending from the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) revealed that while 99 percent of the funds had been secured by the states, only 3 percent had been spent. However, a new portal on the U.S. Department of Education web site shows that expenditure of these funds picked up some in the fall of 2020 with 12 percent of the K-12 funds and 64 percent of the higher ed funds having been spent. The deadline for spending COVID-19 relief funding is September 2022. You can track the allocation of CARES Act funds in MDR Marketview.
As schools continue to figure out what their needs are in the current and evolving environment, expenditures of these funds are bound to increase over the next year. As your trusted partner, MDR can help you reach educators to share your solutions for the remainder of this school year and next.