Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations
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.
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.
The USED generally does not consider the following to be an allowable use of funds:
1. Bonuses, merit pay, or similar expenditures, unless related to disruptions or closures related to COVID-19.
2. Subsidizing or offsetting executive salaries and benefits of individuals who are not employees of the school district.
3. 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. EANS information can be found on the NJDOE Nonpublic site.
- 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).
Learning Acceleration Grant, Mental Health Grant, and Spring Assessment Data Collection
The NJDOE designated $75 million from the State set-aside to establish the Learning Acceleration grant for pre-K through grade 12 instruction. Allocations for these funds were made in the same manner as the ESSER II allocations, with a minimum allocation of $25,000 per Local Education Agency (LEA). LEAs will use 75% of 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. Focusing on priority content, a 75% sub-allocation of the academic these academic enrichment funds will be used for the STEM fields, while a 25% sub-allocation will be used for Literacy/English language arts and the visual and performing arts.
The remaining 25% of the total Learning Acceleration grant may be used for activities that support the broader learning ecosystem of students, staff, and families. These activities include evidence-based strategies to cultivate a growth mindset in students, professional learning for educators in the 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.
Interventions, tutoring, enrichment, and any out-of-school learning opportunity must include accommodations and modifications necessary for the participation of students with disabilities up through age 21, English Language Learners, economically disadvantaged, and homeless students.
Allocations are available on the CRRSA Fund Allocations PDF
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 and supports for students and educators, in coordination with existing county and local services. 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. Each LEA will spend at least 10% of the allocation on professional development that supports the provision of school-based mental health supports and services. The remaining amount can be invested in the further development of mental health supports and services within the school district and/or partnerships with community agencies to ensure that additional programming and supports can be provided to students, educators, and families. Examples and planning considerations have been developed to assist LEAs with determining the best use of their allocation.
As announced in the February 25, 2021 broadcast memo, to ensure that New Jersey students are making meaningful growth toward grade-level standards, the NJDOE will collect data from locally administered assessments that provide a snapshot of student learning during this school year.
The purpose of this collection is to obtain mid-year local assessment data that can be used to determine whether New Jersey students are on track to meet their grade level New Jersey Student Learning Standards (NJSLS) for this year. While yearly midpoints vary across the state, for the purposes of this collection, the interim assessment data must come from assessments administered between November 16, 2020 and February 19, 2021. The collection will indicate whether students are below, on, or above grade level, with “grade level” referencing the district’s expectations of student mastery of the NJSLS at a designated point in time. The data will be used to inform a statewide snapshot of state-level data regarding student performance aligned with the NJSLS and will be reported by grade level, content area, and by student populations.
Each district will rely on local English language arts (ELA), mathematics, and science interim assessment data to report student progress through a NJDOE-provided Spring Assessment Data template (see below for link). Specifically, districts will report progress on:
- ELA: K-10
- Math: K-8; Algebra I, II and Geometry
- Science: K-11; Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Earth and Space Science
The application for ESSER II allocations, Learning Acceleration grants, and Mental Health grants will include an assurance that districts will submit this data collection by April 16, 2021. Upon completing that assurance and submitting a substantially approvable application, districts may begin spending against those allocations in accordance with each grants’ corresponding rules. The data itself will not be collected via the grant application and submitting the data itself is not required to complete the application or to receive approval of the grant application; the data will be collected via a separate portal in NJ Homeroom. The NJDOE has added compliance with that data collection assurance as an indicator in its ESSER II Collaborative Monitoring Risk Assessment tool; failure to submit the complete data within the required timeframe may result in further intervention by the NJDOE.