Information for Schools on CARES Funding

What is CARES?

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) was passed on March 27, 2020. This $2.2 trillion economic stimulus bill provided economic assistance across America to states, cities, businesses and education. Among other funding measures, this act established the Education Stabilization Fund (ESF) and allocated $30.75 billion to the Dept. of Education, of which $13.2 billion is for The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER l) and $3 billion is for The Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER).

CARES allocated $13.2 billion for ESSER I and $3 billion for GEER.
What is ESSER I, and How do Funds Flow?
  • ESSER l allocates monies to State Education Agencies (SEAs), who then sub-grant to Local Education Agencies (LEAs/ Districts). ESSER l refers to the allocation of $13.2 billion from CARES.
  • SEAs are awarded ESSER funding in the same proportion as they receive their Title l, Part A funds and then disburse funds to the LEAs based on the proportion of Title 1, Part A funds each LEA received in the most recent fiscal year. Note: Although, ESSER funds are distributed to LEAs based on Title I, Part A allocations, they are not considered Title l funds and are not subject to Title l restrictions. 
  • The SEA can retain 10% of these ESSER l funds for state education department efforts. To learn more:

Download CARES ESSER l Fund Certification and Agreement here.
Download the CARES ESSER l Fund Frequently Asked Questions here.

Availability of ESSER I Funds
  • The SEA must award the funds within one year of receiving them, which is expected to be April–June 2021, depending on their award date.
  • The SEA is required to report within 6 months how funds are being used.
  • Any funds not awarded by the SEA within one-year of receipt must be returned for reallocation.
  • September 30, 2021 is the last day the State can make awards.
  • The LEA must track use of ESSER l funds separately from other monies.
  • SEAs and LEAs must “obligate” ESSER l funds by September 30, 2022, this includes the 12-month Tydings Amendment period. Funds are considered obligated on the date of a binding written commitment for services or work, even if services are delivered later.
  • To view the state allocation of ESSER l funds, download CARES State Allocation Table here.
  • The Secretary of Education has recommended that districts use ESSER l funds prior to using their ESSER ll fundsDetails here, January 2021 Secretary of Education Letter.
How can ESSER I Funds be Used?
  • CARES (ESSER l) funds may be used for pre-award costs dating back to March 13, 2020. 
  • Generally, the CARES Act indicates that ESSER l funds are to “to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus.” The ESSER I use of funds includes:
    • Any activity authorized by the ESEA of 1965, including the Native Hawaiian Education Act and the Alaska Native Educational Equity, Support, and Assistance Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006, or subtitle B of title VII of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.
    • Coordination of preparedness and response efforts of local educational agencies with state, local, Tribal, and territorial public health departments, and other relevant agencies, to improve coordinated responses among such entities to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.
    • Providing principals and other school leaders with the resources necessary to address the needs of their individual schools.
    • Activities to address the unique needs of low-income children or students, children with disabilities, English learners, racial and ethnic minorities, students experiencing homelessness, and foster care youth, including how outreach and service delivery will meet the needs of each population. 
    • Developing and implementing procedures and systems to improve the preparedness and response efforts of local educational agencies. 
    • Training and professional development for staff of the local educational agency on sanitation and minimizing the spread of infectious diseases.
    • Purchasing supplies to sanitize and clean the facilities of a local educational agency, including buildings operated by such agency.
    • Planning for and coordinating during long-term closures, including for how to provide meals to eligible students, or how to provide technology for online learning to all students.
    • Purchasing educational technology (including hardware, software, and connectivity) for students who are served by the local educational agency that aids in regular and substantive educational interaction between students and their classroom instructors, including low-income students and students with disabilities, which may include assistive technology or adaptive equipment.
    • Providing mental health services and supports.
    • Planning and implementing activities related to summer learning and supplemental afterschool programs, including providing classroom instruction or online learning during the summer months and addressing the needs of low-income students, students with disabilities, English learners, migrant students, students experiencing homelessness, and children in foster care.
    • Other activities that are necessary to maintain the operation of and continuity of services in local educational agencies and continuing to employ existing staff of the local educational agency.

Note: Communication from the US Department of Education has clarified that addressing learning loss, preparing schools for reopening, and testing, repairing, and upgrading projects to improve air quality in school buildings are allowable under the CARES Act funding. 

Download ESSER ll Fact Sheet for Comparison of ESSER l & ll here.

What is GEER I?

Under the CARES Act, The Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER l) provides $3 billion in formula grants to Governors. These GEER funds can be granted to LEAs, institutions of higher education and other education related entities to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

Download CARES GEER Certification and Agreement here.

Availability of GEER I Funds
  • GEER funds may be used for pre-award costs dating back to March 13, 2020.
  • Governors have one-year, from the date of the State’s award, to award funds (April through June 2021, depending on award date).
  • Any funds not awarded by the Governor within one year of receiving the State’s award must be returned for reallocation.
  • Available for obligation by Governors and subrecipients (LEAs) through September 30, 2022.
  • Funding is subject to State complying with maintenance of effort provisions.
  • To view the state allocation of GEER l funds, download CARES GEER State Allocation Table here.
  • The LEA must track use of GEER l funds separately.
How can GEER I Funds be Used?
  • Governors may use funds to:
    • Provide emergency support to LEAs most impacted by COVID-19 to ensure “on-going functionality”,
    • Provide support through a subgrant/ contract to other LEAs, Institutions of Higher Education, and education-related entities “deemed essential” for carrying out emergency educational services, providing child-care and early childhood education, providing social and emotional support, and protecting education related jobs, and
    • Provide emergency support to institutions of higher education most impacted to ensure “on-going functionality”.
  • Unless the Governor specifically directs otherwise, the LEAs have flexibility in determining how they use their GEER l funds to prevent, prepare for, or respond to the coronavirus.

Download CARES GEER Certification and Agreement here.
Download CARES GEER Fund Frequently Asked Questions here.

Learn about CRRSA