More Money for Child Care, K-12 Schools and Higher Education
The American Rescue Plan Act (ARP), which President Biden signed into law on March 11, 2021, contains hundreds of billions of dollars in spending for schools, colleges, and universities through the already existing Education Stabilization Fund. For child care programs, the bill provides more money for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program. For K-12 schools, the bill adds more funds to the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSERF). The legislation designates ESSERF grants to the Department of Education, which in turn gives block grants to state educational agencies (SEAs) for distribution to local education authorities (LEA). The bill also adds funds to the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF). Colleges and universities should apply directly to the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) for HEERF grants.
DOE and SEAs are still in the process of writing rules for distribution of the respective grants. The highlights of what we currently know are:
Child Care (CCDBG) Grants
- Licensing agencies that receive CCDBG grants must award at least 90% of the funds to childcare providers.
- Eligible providers include those who were either open or closed due to COVID.
- Providers may use the funds for personnel expense, cleaning supplies, personal protective equipment, and mental health support.
- Providers must implement practices in line with guidance from state and local authorities, pay no less than the full compensation being paid to employees, and provide relief to families to the extent possible.
K-12 Schools (ESSERF) Grants
- Most of the money goes to public schools. The legislation does set aside money for private schools that serve a “significant” number of low-income students.
- LEAs must continue providing equitable services to students and teachers at non-public schools in the district.
- LEAs must reserve at least 20% of the grant funds, and state must reserve 5%, to “address learning loss” through programs such as summer school, extended school day or school year, or afterschool programs. LEAS also must ensure that the learning interventions address the needs of minority, disabled, migrant, and economically disadvantaged children, as well as homeless and foster youth.
- Schools can use the rest of the funds for needs as diverse cleaning supplies, technology for distance learning, mental health services, building improvements to reduce risk of virus transmission and “exposure to environmental health hazards,” implementation of public health guidance, facilitating social distancing on transportation services, and activities “necessary to maintain the operation and continuity” of education service and employing existing staff.
- SEAs and LEAs receiving funds have strict limitations on their ability to cut per-pupil spending or reduce per-pupil staffing.
- The ARP Act specifically allocates money to purchase technology to aid students in digital learning. Receiving schools must target the funds to low-income students and those with disabilities.
- Another portion of the Act includes dedicated funding for IDEA programs.
- Within 30 days of receiving ESSERF funding, every district must create and post on its website “a plan for the safe return to in-person instruction.”
Post-Secondary (HEERF) Grants
- For profit colleges must get no more than 90% of their revenue from federal student aid from any source, including military student aid.
- Institutions must spend 50% of their grant money for emergency financial aid to students. The students must meet certain requirements and must apply to their school for the funds. Schools also must notify students about the opportunity to appeal for additional financial aid due to special circumstances such as unemployment of a family member.
- Institutions with exclusively online students must spend 100% of their grant money on financial aid to students.
- Institutions can spend the remainder of the money on implementing safety protocols, distance learning programs, mental health, and “social and emotional learning.”
The U.S. DOE is updating its website to accept applications for HEERF grants. SEAs for ESSERF grants and lead agencies for CCDGB grants should be following the same procedures already established in earlier relief funding.
As the rules become clearer and the process moves along, Taylor English will monitor any new developments. Please feel free to contact us with any questions.