What is ESSER?
Through the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed in March 2020, $13.2 billion was allocated to the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund. The money is aimed at supporting public and charter K-12 and higher education institutions.
An additional $54.3 billion was set aside in December 2020 through the ESSER II Fund, with another $122 billion coming in March 2021 through the American Rescue Plan (ARP). The third round of funding (ESSER III) was provided to help schools safely reopen and address academic and social-emotional learning (SEL) issues caused by the pandemic.
What is EANS?
While ESSER funding is allocated for public schools, the Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools (EANS) relief package provides financial support for private and independent schools. Under the second round of funding announced in March 2021, eligible institutions received a share of $2.75 billion to go toward future expenses related to safely reopening schools, continuing instruction and addressing learning loss.
How to Use the Funds
Schools have until September 30, 2023, to use ESSER III funds. According to the District Management Group, the money can be used for nearly any reasonable educational expense. However, each state board of education and individual school district may have their own limits on how schools can use the funding. EANS funds can be used for similar purposes.
Here are some ideas for using ESSER and EANS money:
- Digital teaching tools: Though 96 percent of K-12 public schools have been open for full-time in-person instruction since 2022, technology is still a critical part of the learning environment. Laptops, interactive displays and collaborative software are just a few tools that can keep students engaged.
- Programs to track and reduce learning loss: While it’s unclear the full impact COVID-19 has had on education, researchers suggest students are, on average, four to five months behind in key subjects like reading and math. Schools can use the funding to address learning loss in various ways, from offering tutoring and summer school programs to creating community partnerships for additional support.
- Resources for disadvantaged learners: The second round of EANS funding emphasizes supporting non-public schools that serve a high percentage of low-income students. ESSER funds can also be used to invest in technology and programs that meet the needs of students with disabilities, English language learners, racial and ethnic minorities, students experiencing homelessness, foster children and other students at higher risk of learning loss.
- Mental health services: The pandemic has taken a toll on many of us, including students and educators. Funding can be used for mental health resources, such as school counselors and SEL programs.
- Health and wellness improvements: Schools can use funds to make HVAC repairs, purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) for classrooms or invest in air purification systems to foster a healthier learning environment.
- Address staffing shortages: The EdWeek Research Center reports that 40 percent of district leaders describe their staff shortages as severe. Funds can be used to pay for additional substitutes, hire full-time teachers and bring on administrators to better facilitate digital learning.
Recommendations on How to Capture and Spend Funding
With all the funding sources available for schools and the many possible ways to spend that money, it can be overwhelming for schools to determine how to make the best use of these resources.
Bluum’s Funding Advisory team can support you through the process of applying for and using federal funds, including ESSER and EANS. We offer consultation, research, strategic planning, support and eligible products and services to help you capture funds to purchase the technology and provide resources to help you create exceptional learning and teaching experiences.