On March 11, 2021, the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan was signed into law which included $122 billion for K12 education via a program called ARP ESSER. Two weeks later, the Education Department has released two-thirds of ARP ESSER funds to States to support efforts to get students back in the classroom safely for in-person learning and to address the academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs of all students.

Download our Guide to Federal COVID-19 Relief Bills for K-12 Education

How much money will my District get in this third wave? 

Funding under the stimulus’ ESSER program is distributed to school districts based on Title I. Your district will receive roughly 2.2 times what your district received under the second wave of stimulus signed into law in December 2020 (CRRSA). Although, some States still haven’t distributed the ESSER-II allocations under CRRSA.  

When will my District get the ARP ESSER funding?  

States have 60 days to allocate ARP ESSER funds to school districts. So before the end of May 2021, your district should know how much funding they will receive from the American Rescue Plan. 

How can my District use ARP ESSER funds?  

At least 20% of this new wave of funds must be used to “address learning loss” through the implementation of evidence-based interventions, such as summer learning or summer enrichment, extended day, comprehensive after-school programs, or extended school year programs. These interventions should respond to students’ academic, social, and emotional needs and address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on underrepresented student subgroups. 

For the rest of the ARP ESSER money, I’ve broken down the allowable uses of funds into Education vs Health-related activities:

Education-related activities

  • any activity authorized by the ESEA, IDEA, Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, or Carl D. Perkins CTE 
  • addressing the needs of children from low-income families, children with disabilities, English learners, racial and ethnic minorities, students experiencing homelessness, and foster care youth
  • planning and implementing activities related to summer learning and supplemental after-school programs
  • purchasing educational technology (including hardware, software, connectivity, assistive technology, and adaptive equipment) for students that aids in regular and substantive educational interaction between students and their classroom instructors, including students from low-income families and children with disabilities
  • addressing learning loss
  • other activities that are necessary to maintain operation of and continuity of services, including continuing to employ existing or hiring new LEA and school staff 
  • planning for or implementing activities during long-term closures, including providing meals to eligible students and providing technology for online learning

Health-related activities

  • coordinating preparedness and response efforts with State, local, Tribal, and territorial public health departments to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19
  • training and professional development on sanitizing and minimizing the spread of infectious diseases
  • purchasing supplies to sanitize and clean school facilities
  • repairing and improving school facilities to reduce risk of virus transmission and exposure to environmental health hazards
  • improving indoor air quality
  • developing and implementing procedures and systems to improve the preparedness and response efforts of LEAs
  • providing mental health services and supports

When will my State get the remaining 33% of ARP ESSER? 

The Education Department will release the remaining funds after States submit plans for using funds to safely reopen schools and work to close the gaps in education equity that the pandemic has exacerbated.

I’m a teacher. Will I get any of this stimulus money for my classroom? 

In most districts, use of this money will be determined by district-level leadership or by district-level stakeholder planning committees. If you have a project idea related to addressing learning loss or classroom needs related to COVID-19 recovery, reach out to your principal or Federal Programs personnel to understand how priorities will be made locally. 

I’m with a private school. Are districts required to provide equitable services with this ARP ESSER money?

No. Instead of requiring equitable services, the American Rescue Plan dedicates an additional $2.75 billion to the “Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools” fund.

Can my district use these funds to hire new staff or avoid layoffs? 

Yes, but the funding is temporary and will expire eventually. 

Can my district use these funds to purchase textbooks? 

Yes. At least three states’ ESSER guidance clarifies that high-quality instructional materials are an allowable use of stimulus funds: Nebraska, Idaho, and Mississippi

Is there a deadline to spend the ARP ESSER funds?  

Districts have several years to utilize this funding. Factoring in the Tydings period, ARP ESSER funds will remain available through September 30, 2024.  

Learn more about Federal Stimulus Programs >

FAQs on Stimulus Funds and Learning Loss

CARES, CRRSA, ESSER, Oh My! 

Stimulus Funds and Non-Public Schools

CARES vs Second Stimulus: What’s different for K-12?

Find information on Savvas programs for addressing unfinished learning 

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Grace Stopani

Grace Stopani

Director, Funding

Note: Fresh Ideas for Teaching blog contributors have been compensated for sharing personal teaching experiences on our blog. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.

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