Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act
On March 27, 2020, President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Among its many provisions, the Act includes specific funding sources for Local Education Agencies. Specifically, Section 18003 of the CARES Act establishes the Elementary Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSERF).
The core purpose of the Elementary and Secondary school Emergency Relief Fund is to provide direct money to school districts and provide funding to support areas impacted by the disruption and closure of schools from COVID-19.
CARES Act Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund
The purpose of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund is to address the impact COVID-19 has had, and continues to have, on elementary and secondary schools, which includes both:
- Continuing to provide educational services while schools are closed, such as remote learning; and
- Developing and implementing plans for the return to normal operations.
In accordance with the legislation, LEAs (including charter schools that are LEAs) that received a fiscal year 2020 allocation under Title I, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) are eligible for ESSER entitlement grants. However, these grant funds are not subject to Title I, Part A requirements.
It should be noted that the CARES Act ESSER funding is a one-time appropriation from the U.S. Department of Education (USDE). NJ DOE strongly recommends that nonrecurring funding not be used for recurring expenditures.
Allocations to all States can be found at US Department of Education (USDE) ESSER Fund State Allocations Table (PDF).
NJ DOE has calculated the allocations LEAs will receive in ESSER funds.
Per the legislation, LEAs may use the funds for the following:
- 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.
- 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.
Examples of allowable activities can be found in the following guidance: Guidance on the Allowable Uses of Funds under the Education Stabilization Fund Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER Fund).
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.
The NJDOE has released a streamlined LEA Application for Funds, see the link in the top right corner of this webpage. The application requires LEAs to identify how they will apportion their ESSER Fund allocation among the 12 enumerated authorized uses. The application also requires districts to submit all assurances required under the CARES Act.
The Local Educational Agency (LEA) hereby assures the New Jersey Department of Education that:
- The LEA understands the general assurances agreed to in the GMS system also apply to the CARES Act 2020 funds.
- The LEA will use ESSER funds for activities allowable under section 18003(d) of Division B of the CARES Act), the United States Department of Education generally does not consider the following to be an allowable use of ESSER funds, under any part of 18003: 1) subsidizing or offsetting executive salaries and benefits of individuals who are not employees of the LEA or 2) expenditures related to state or local teacher or faculty unions or associations.
- The LEA that receives funds under the Education Stabilization Fund, shall to the greatest extent practicable continue to pay its employees and contractors during the period of any disruption or closures related to coronavirus. The LEA will not use CARES Act funds for bonuses, merit pay, or similar expenditures, unless related to disruptions or closures resulting from COVID-19. (Section 18006, CARES Act 2020)
- The LEA will provide equitable services to students and teachers in nonpublic schools as required under 18005 of Division B of the CARES Act. (if applicable)
- The LEA will comply with all reporting requirements of the CARES Act at such time and in such manner and containing such information as the NJDOE may subsequently require. (See also 2 CFR 200.327-200.329). The department may require additional reporting in the future, which may include: the methodology LEAs will use to provide services or assistance to students and staff in both public and nonpublic schools, the uses of funds by the LEAs or other entities and demonstration of their compliance with Section 18003(d), such as any use of funds addressing the digital divide, including securing access to home-based connectivity and remote-use devices, related issues in supporting remote learning for all students, including disadvantaged populations.
- The LEA will ensure as the sub-recipient of ESSER funds will cooperate with any examination of records with respect to such funds by making records available for inspection, production, and examination, and authorized individuals available for interview and examination, upon the request of (i) the Department and/or its Inspector General; or (ii) any other federal agency, commission, or department in the lawful exercise of its jurisdiction and authority.
- Start Period: Funds may be used for allowable costs incurred on or after March 13, 2020;
- Obligated through: September 30, 2022, which includes the Tydings period (General Education Provisions Act §421(b)(1)); and
- Liquidated by: October 15, 2022.
Email questions to: TitleOne@doe.nj.gov