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The 2021 COVID Response and Relief Act: What It Means for K-12

January 8, 2021

(Updated 2/10) On December 21, 2020, Congress passed the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021 (CRRSA). It was signed into law on December 27, 2020. This long-awaited sequel to the CARES Act includes a stimulus and pandemic relief package of just under $900 billion, with just over $81 billion of it for the Education Stabilization Fund. This fund provides an additional $54.3 billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER II) Fund and must be used by September, 2022.

The recently passed legislation also includes $1 billion for the Governors Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund. GEER is available for governors to provide either K-12 or higher education funds based on the needs they identify in the state. This fund will also operate similarly to the GEER fund found in the CARES Act.

The ESSER II Fund

Much like the ESSER I Fund within the CARES ACT, the majority of the money allotted to K-12 schools will go directly to districts based on the proportion of funding they receive through Title I of the federal Every Students Succeeds Act. The states can reserve 10 percent for administration, but must use the rest for local education agencies (LEAs). The $54.3 billion is roughly 4 times that received in March, 2020.

School districts can use the fund for any activity allowed under other federal laws for education, aiming to improve outcomes for students who have been significantly impacted by the coronavirus. This can include:

  • Activities authorized by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965;
  • Slowing the spread of Covid-19;
  • Addressing the specific needs of disadvantaged students;
  • Helping with learning loss;
  • Purchasing PPE and the supplies needed to clean and disinfect schools;
  • Providing mental health services and support for students;
  • Closing the digital divide for students;
  • Summer learning and supplemental after-school programs;
  • Planning for school closures;
  • Purchasing the hardware and software needed to conduct remote and hybrid learning.

How Could the Fund Be Allocated?

If budget allocation from the CARES Act Discretionary Funds is any indication of how this most recent fund might be allocated, a majority of the states will likely focus on broadband, remote training/curriculum, and devices. Below you can see how governors have been using the CARES Act discretionary funds:

Chart showing how governors are using CARES Act funds

Additionally, experts put together a rough estimate of what states should receive compared to the CARES Act.

Coronavirus K-12 State Allocation Table

Table of K-12 state allocations

What Comes Next?

With this much anticipated relief for school districts around the country, should you expect more to come? Many experts predict that the fund is acting as a “bridge” payment and are hopeful for more help, particularly with a new administration taking office January 20 and the Senate recently moving to Democrat control. 

On January 14th, 2021, President Biden released a $1.9 trillion plan for COVID-19 relief that would provide $130 billion in funds for K-12 education. In this plan, funds are aimed at helping K-12 schools reopen or provide distance learning.

"We will do everything we can to keep our educators and students safe and to safely open a majority of our K-8 schools by the end of our first 100 days," Biden said in a speech announcing his plan. 

For more information on the ESSER II Fund, the Office of Elementary & Secondary Education has put together this Fact Sheet.


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