Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund II (ESSER II)
On December 27, 2020, the federal Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 (CRRSA Act), Public Law 116-260, was signed into law and provided an additional $54.3 billion nationwide for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER II Fund).
The purpose of the additional funding is to provide direct money to LEAs to assist in safely reopening schools, measuring and effectively addressing significant learning loss, and taking other actions to respond to the impact of COVID-19 on educators, students, and families. Allowable uses include all possible expenditures under CARES ESSER I.
CRRSA Act Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund II (ESSER II)
In addition to the ESSER I uses of funds, the ESSER II law highlights three categories of allowable activities that were not specifically identified in ESSER I (addressing learning loss, preparing schools for reopening, and testing, repairing, and upgrading projects to improve air quality in buildings).
Additionally, there are important distinctions between the two programs, including the period of fund availability, equitable services to nonpublic schools, and reporting on efforts to measure and address student learning loss.
ESSER II Fund awards to LEAs (including charter schools that are LEAs) are allocated in the same proportion as those funds received under Part A of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended, in school year 2020-21. In accordance with the Act, LEAs are not required to provide equitable services. A separate program, the Emergency Assistance to Non-public Schools (EANS) was authorized as part of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER II) Fund. Additional information regarding EANS will be forthcoming. It is important to note that ESSER II funds are not subject to Title I, Part A requirements.
It should also be noted that ESSER II funding is a one-time appropriation from the U.S. Department of Education (USDE). In developing local plans, LEAs should consider how ESSER II funding might interact with other federal funding to promote sustainable use.
SEA: Allocations to all States can be found at the CRRSA ESSER II Methodology and Allocation Table (PDF).
The New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) has released LEAs’ ESSER II Fund allocations. All school districts have access to the allocations on the CRRSA Fund Allocations PDF.
In addition, the NJDOE has determined to use funds from the State set-aside to provide assistance to non-Title I LEAs, the County Special Services School Districts, Education Services Commissions, Jointure Commissions, Division of Children and Families, Department of Corrections, Juvenile Justice Commission and the Juvenile Detention Centers. These allocations are also available on the CRRSA Fund Allocations PDF.
The NJDOE has also designated $75 million from the State set-aside to establish the Learning Acceleration grant to support research-based academic enrichment activities such as summer learning academies, school year learning acceleration academies and 1:1 tutoring. Learning Acceleration Grants may also be used for activities that support the broader learning ecosystem, such as evidence-based strategies to cultivate a growth mindset in students, professional learning for educators in use of universal screening assessments and in how to use extended day instructional time to effectively scaffold students’ learning, and education and training programs for parents and care-givers. Allocations for these funds were made in the same manner as the ESSER II allocations with a minimum allocation of $25,000 per LEA. Both Title I, Part A and non-Title I LEAs received an allocation. Lastly, the NJDOE has designated $30 million from the State set-aside for the provision of mental health services and supports. These funds will support schools in building a continuum of school-based mental health services for students, in coordination with existing county and local services, and supports for educators. Allocations for these funds were based upon total LEA enrollment with a minimum of $45,000 per LEA. The allocations are also available on the CRRSA Fund Allocations PDF.
The additional ESSER II funding has the same allowable activities as the ESSER I funds under the CARES Act, but specifically identifies three (3) activities; these activities are marked with an asterisk (*). LEAs may use their ESSER II funding on the following allowable activities:
- Activities authorized under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006, the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, or the Adult Education and Family Literacy 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 others 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, how to provide technology for online learning to all students, how to provide guidance for carrying out requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (20 U.S.C. 1401 et seq.) and how to ensure other educational services can continue to be provided consistent with all Federal, State, and local requirements.
- 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.
- * Addressing learning loss among students, including low-income students, children with disabilities, English learners, racial and ethnic minorities, students experiencing homelessness, and children and youth in foster care, of the local educational agency, including by—
- Administering and using high-quality assessments that are valid and reliable, to accurately assess students’ academic progress and assist educators in meeting students’ academic needs, including through differentiating instruction.
- Implementing evidence-based activities to meet the comprehensive needs of students.
- Providing information and assistance to parents and families on how they can effectively support students, including in a distance learning environment.
- Tracking student attendance and improving student engagement in distance education.
- * School facility repairs and improvements to enable operation of schools to reduce risk of virus transmission and exposure to environmental health hazards, and to support student health needs.
- * Inspection, testing, maintenance, repair, replacement, and upgrade projects to improve the indoor air quality in school facilities, including mechanical and non-mechanical heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, filtering, purification and other air cleaning, fans, control systems, and window and door repair and replacement.
- 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 that the USDE generally does not consider the following to be an allowable use of ESSER funds:
- subsidizing or offsetting executive salaries and benefits of individuals who are not employees of the SEA or LEAs; or
- expenditures related to state or local teacher or faculty unions or associations.
LEAs are not required to provide equitable services under ESSER II. A separate program, the Emergency Assistance to Non-public Schools (EANS) was authorized as part of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER II) Fund. Additional information regarding EANS will be forthcoming.
- Start Period: Funds may be used for allowable costs incurred on or after March 13, 2020;
- Obligated through: September 30, 2023, which includes the Tydings period (General Education Provisions Act §421(b)(1)); and
- Liquidated by: October 13, 2023.
ESSER II funds are not subject to the supplement-not-supplant requirement.
ESSER II does not include a local maintenance-of-effort requirement. In other words, LEAs are not required to maintain effort to receive ESSER II funds. LEAs must, however, continue to comply with maintenance-of-effort requirements in other federal education laws such as ESEA and IDEA.
Because ESSER II funds can be used for an expanded set of purposes, and spent during a different timeframe, they must be accounted for separately from the ESSER I funds. Additional information on reporting and accounting guidance for these funds is forthcoming.
LEAs will be required to provide reports to the NJDOE documenting the amount of ESSER II funds spent in each allowable use category. Due dates for these reports will be outlined in the EWEG system. In addition, LEAs will be subject to applicable monitoring processes on the uses of ESSER II funds.
ESSER II funds are subject to all applicable provisions of the Education Department General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR) and Uniform Grant Guidance (UGG). LEAs should be aware of cash management (2 CFR § 200.305) and other post federal award requirements in 2 CFR part 200, subpart D. Note: Due to the amount of funding provided, additional LEAs may fall within the single audit threshold (i.e., expending $750,000 or more of federal funds during the fiscal year).