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Education Funding Begins to Become Available under the CARES Act

Coronavirus Education

States may now apply for their share of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSERS) Fund – the $13.2 billion fund under the CARES Act that will be allocated to states based on the proportions of Title IA funds they received in the most recent fiscal year. ISBE announced Friday that it is currently working on its application for Illinois’ allocated portion of the fund, projected to be $569,467,218. 90% of this amount will go to school districts based on the amount of Title IA funds they received in the most recent fiscal year, identified by ISBE here. The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) has indicated that it has “streamlined” the application process and only requires state education agencies (SEAs) to complete a brief certification and agreement form, which can be submitted electronically. Once submitted, the DOE has stated that it will aim to release the funds directly to the SEAs within 3 business days (although it acknowledged that if the system is taxed it could be an additional 1-2 days). How quickly Illinois school districts will then receive the funds will be determined by ISBE. ISBE has indicated that once it receives the funding award, it will provide additional information to districts regarding their receipt of this funding. School districts may use the funds for a variety of purposes, as detailed in ISBE’s summary guidance.

Notably, the remaining 10% of funds that Illinois will receive under the ESSERS Fund could be distributed  to school districts, or can be set aside for “emergency needs as determined by [ISBE] to address issues responding to coronavirus, which may be addressed through the use of grants or contracts” (with .5% of that being able to be used for administrative costs). Thus, $56,946,722 can be set aside by ISBE for these general “emergency needs” through grants or contracts. State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen Ayala has previously indicated that ISBE intends to make these funds available to the school districts in the greatest need to support students’ access to technology and the internet.

The DOE also recently announced that governors may now apply to the DOE for funding under the $3 billion Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, of which Illinois is projected to get a little over $108 million. In the application, the Governor has to provide at least some explanation for how the State intends to use the funds, which he could make available to school districts, higher education institutions, or other education-related entities  – including non-public schools and charter schools – within the Governor’s discretion. While the application appears to encourage states to use the funds for remote learning, the Act also allows the funds to be used to support educational institutions in other specified ways as well. 

The CARES Act also makes available approximately $307,500,000 to states with the highest coronavirus burden through the Education Stabilization Fund Discretionary Grants. The DOE has said it will make these grants available to governors in states most affected by coronavirus. The states that will be eligible for these funds, and the manner in which the funds will be allocated to schools and school districts, remains to be seen.

If you have any questions or would like additional information, contact the authors of this alert or any other Franczek Attorney.