CARES Act: What Schools Need to Know

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On March 27, 2020, the U.S. Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The $2 trillion CARES Act relief package includes $30.75 billion for an Education Stabilization Fund, which provides flexibilities for states to respond to the pandemic. 

The Act includes two grant programs that impact K-12 schools:

  • The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) accounts for approximately $13.2 billion. State education agencies (SEAs) first receive funding based the previous year’s Title I shares. SEAs must then distribute at least 90% of these funds to local education agencies (LEAs), which includes school districts and public charter schools, to respond to the pandemic.
  • The Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEERF) includes approximately $3 billion that is distributed directly to Governors. As of June 4, 2020, all 50 states and the District of Columbia applied and were approved to receive funds from this grant. Governors can choose to use the funds for either K-12, higher education, and/or daycare providers for COVID-19 response.

Obtaining Your ESSER Funds

School districts apply to their state’s SEA—Department of Education or Office of Public Instruction—to receive funding (see how much ESSER funds your state was awarded here).

Each SEA will have its own process, so it is imperative you continue to monitor your state’s SEA for information on the steps you need to take to receive funding. For example, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) is opening their grant application in June. School districts will submit the application online, and within ten business days, the TEA will email a preliminary grant award and release 20% of the allocated funds to the school district. The allocated funds per school district are posted here. This allows schools to receive partial funding quickly. Schools will receive 100% of their funds after the TEA further reviews the applications.  

SEAs have one year, from the date of receiving its ESSER funds, to award the funds to LEAs. The amount distributed to LEAs is based on the Title I formula; however, these funds are not subject to Title I requirements.  

The CARES Act does not directly discuss ESSER funds for charter schools that are not standalone LEAs. Many SEAs, however, have asked school districts to consider their charter schools when determining the funds needed to respond to COVID-19.

Using Your ESSER Funds

The ESSER funds must be used to address the impact COVID-19 has had and continues to have on elementary and secondary schools. This includes items such as:

  • developing and implementing procedures and systems to improve your preparedness and response efforts, including contact tracing efforts and recording visitor temperatures
  • purchasing technology to support students and staff
  • planning for and coordinating long-term closures, including how to provide meals to students and how to provide technology for online learning
  • providing principals and school leaders with funds needed for their individual school needs
  • other necessary activities to maintain the operation of and continuity of services

The full list of acceptable uses of funds can be found here.

Committed Ally for Your COVID-19 Response Efforts

Raptor Technologies is a trusted, committed ally to over 32,000 K-12 schools nationwide. Driven by our mission to protect every child, every school, every day, Raptor has supported schools across the nation with their COVID-19 response efforts. From helping schools manage, track, and deliver meals, homework, and instructional devices to students to providing a method for screening and tracking visitors for COVID-19 exposure, Raptor solutions can help you address COVID-19’s impact so you can focus on keeping your students and staff safe. Raptor solutions meet many of the acceptable ESSER use requirements, including those listed above. 

Raptor Emergency Management is an emergency preparedness, response, and recovery software solution that gives school districts complete line of sight during drills, active emergencies, and post-incident reunification. While one component of the system, Raptor Reunification®, was built to help schools reunify students with approved guardians during a crisis, Texas City Independent School District realized they could leverage the software to streamline and track distribution. Texas City ISD relies on Raptor to provide meals, curriculum, and other key resources to its students, including delivery of about 17,000 meals daily, tracking some 5,000+ tablets and laptops issued to secondary students, tracking “hard-copy” curriculum and textbooks for 4,000+ K–5 students, tracking musical instruments and equipment, and returning hundreds of student medications to authorized guardians. Watch our on-demand webinar here to see how the district is successful in streamlining its distribution efforts.

Raptor Visitor Management is a robust system that helps schools minimize COVID-19 exposure to students, staff, their families, and various visitors, as well as record information for contact tracing efforts. The Raptor system allows districts to record visitor temperature and answers to COVID-19-related health questions during visitor check-in. The system tracks and records every visitor and their details, which can include their contact information and when exactly they were in your school. This information is readily available in the system, so if a previous visitor alerts you that they have tested positive for COVID-19, you will have the information you need to alert others. For more information on how Raptor Visitor Management can help with COVID-19 screening and contact tracing, click here.

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