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Federal COVID Education Funding
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress has passed two significant stimulus bills that include funding for education. In March 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was enacted, and in December 2020, the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act provided an additional $900 billion in funding for education.
Information on the education funding streams from these stimulus bills is provided on this page: the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF), the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund, ESSER II Fund, Governor's Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund and school nutrition.
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About the Coronavirus Relief Fund
The CARES Act established the $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) to support states with COVID-19 related expenses incurred from March 1, 2020, to Dec. 30, 2020. Gov. Polis directed $510 million from the state's CRF to the Colorado Department of Education to be awarded to school districts, the Charter School Institute, the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind and facility schools on a per pupil basis. Additionally, each Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) in the state received $25,000.
A provision within the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, in conjunction with the Governor's Executive Order, extends the use of CRF until Dec. 31, 2021
In addition to CRF distribution to districts, CDE managed the Safe Schools Reopening Grant (SSRG) in partnership with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). This $15 million in one-time grant funding provided local educational agencies (LEAs - school districts and BOCES) with public schools struggling to return to in-person learning.
About ESSER I
In March 2020, the CARES Act established the Education Stabilization Fund, which initially provided $13.23 billion to the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) I Fund. ESSER I Fund dollars were appropriated to states based on the 2019-20 Title I shares with 90% allocated to local education agencies (LEAs) that received a Title I allocation in the most recent fiscal year and the remaining 10% for a state reserve fund. Colorado was allocated $120,993,782 from the U.S. Department of Education from the ESSER I Fund.
In December 2020, the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act added $82 billion in funding for the Education Stabilization Fund including $54.3 billion for the ESSER Fund. This tranche of funding is called ESSER II. ESSER II funds will be distributed according to the same process as the original ESSER funds with 90% flowing to local education agencies based on the Title I formula and 10% reserved for state set-aside activities. Like the original ESSER dollars, only 0.5% of the total state award may be used for administration activities. Colorado has been allocated $519,324,311 to the ESSER II fund.
In March 2021, the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act added $123 billion to the Elementary and Secondary Education Relief (ESSER) fund in emergency pandemic relief aid for K-12 schools nationally. Colorado will receive almost $1.17 billion under the new legislation and, like the previous recovery bills, 90% of the funding will flow to districts through the Title I formula with 10% set aside for state-level priorities. ESSER III has a heavy emphasis on addressing the learning impacts of COVID-19 by requiring local education agencies to use at least 20% of funding for this purpose including interventions, summer programming, and after-school opportunities. Colorado has been allocated $1,166,328,632 in ESSER III funding.
About GEER I
The CARES Act included $3 billion for a Governor's Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund. Colorado was allocated more than $44 million from the GEER fund. GEER funds are flexible and are able to be used at the discretion of governors. GEER funds can be used to provide emergency support through:
- grants to local educational agencies;
- institutions of higher education;
- other education-related entities deemed essential for carrying out emergency education services;
- any purpose under most federal education legislation; or
- the provision of child care and early childhood education, social and emotional support and the protection of education-related jobs.
In June, 2020, Gov. Polis announced plans for GEER funds:
- Nearly $33 million in grants to school districts, public schools, public institutions of higher education, and other education-related entities to support equity and innovation to address the COVID-19 crisis. The grant program called the Response, Innovation, and Student Equity (RISE) Education Fund will be accepting applications this fall.
- $5-6 million for dramatically increasing capacity for Colorado Empowered Learning.
- $3 million investment in educator recruitment and retention to provide stability for school districts through the Quality Teacher Recruitment program.
Including: Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools (EANS)
The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2020 added $4.05 billion for the Governor's Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund. From the additional GEER funds, called GEER II, Colorado will receive $47,865,504.
GEER II included $2.75 billion for emergency assistance to nonpublic schools through the Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools (EANS) grants of which $28,433,931 has been allocated to Colorado. Under this provision, the state education agency (SEA) will administer the funds. Nonpublic schools can apply for these funds for “secular, neutral, and non ideological” services and assistance, including sanitization, personal protective equipment, COVID testing, educational technology, and connectivity. SEAs are required to prioritize services or assistance to nonpublic schools that enroll low-income students and are most impacted by the qualifying emergency.
More information on the timing and process for applying for the EANs grant is forthcoming.
CDE's School Nutrition Unit has administered the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP), Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and Emergency Feeding efforts throughout the coronavirus pandemic. CDE was allocated funding through the CARES Act for all meal reimbursement starting in March 2020.
The new federal stimulus bill distributes emergency relief funds to school meal programs based on a formula that takes into account the level of reimbursement a program received in 2019 and the reimbursement received during the pandemic.