ESSER Refresher: How Schools Can Spend ESSER Relief Funds

enhancing school safety using ESSER funds

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Everything you need to know about how to maximize your school ESSER funds. 

Several COVID relief acts have provided much-needed funds to the education sector. To really maximize their funding, schools first need to understand each opportunity and then make sure they stay in the loop as funding requirements or due dates change. 

When it comes to ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) funds, there is a lot of information to keep up with. Dr. Paula Love, Founder of RFP Match, recently talked about the latest updates and how schools can use this funding to transform school safety. 

A summary of the conversation is below. You can listen to the full interview on this episode of School Safety Today. 

What is ESSER Again?

“It’s important for schools and school districts to really understand the names and acronyms behind this funding because it gets a little confusing,” Dr. Love admits.  

In March 2020, the U.S. Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act in response to the pandemic. “ESSER 1, under the CARES Act, [gave schools] $13.2 billion dollars,” Dr. Love says. 

The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act, signed into law in December 2020, provides an additional $54.3 billion in an ESSER II Fund. 

In March 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act into law. This act includes the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) Fund, which allocates $126 billion for K-12 schools. 

When Do Schools Need to Spend ESSER Money?

Funding is available from all three ESSER rounds, but deadlines to obligate funds are approaching. “When I talk about obligation, I mean things like having a purchase order, a contract, or agreement that shows you are going to obligate those funds,” Dr. Love explains. Another way to think about it? Obligating funds means that you have committed to using the funds toward a specific purpose. 

The spending deadline is the date you must spend or liquidate the funds. Each ESSER has deadlines: 

  • ESSER I 
    • Obligate: September 30, 2022 
    • Spend: January 28, 2023 
  • ESSER II 
    • Obligate: September 30, 2023 
    • Spend: January 28, 2024 
  • ARP ESSER 
    • Obligate: September 30, 2024 
    • Spend: January 28, 2025 

How Can Schools Use ESSER Funds?

The funding originally had to be used on expenses that were directly related to the pandemic and reopening schools. There has since been a shift in requirements. “Where we are right now is looking into not just keeping schools open, but how do we transform and innovate [our schools] using these funds going forward,” Dr. Love explains. 

Schools can use ESSER funding to address students’ social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs. This includes providing tutoring and mentorship opportunities, increasing mental health services at school, implementing enrichment programs, and hiring additional support, like teachers, school counselors, and other critical staff, needed to help students achieve success. 

Schools are also urged to think holistically about their school’s safety. They can use funding to help create and maintain a safe and healthy school. This includes being prepared for any incident and implementing necessary activities to maintain the operation of and continuity of services. Sustaining a safe and supportive school is critical for student learning and well-being. 

Continue Learning About School Grants and Funding

Listen to Dr. Love’s episode on School Safety Today to hear more about ESSER and new funding opportunities, including those for school resource officers, school volunteer programs, and mental health services. 

To learn how to maximize your ESSER funds by purchasing Raptor, contact us today.  

Related Resources

Guide to K-12 In-Person Learning
Strategies to Address the Pandemic’s Impacts and Maximize ESSER Funds.

Guide to K-12 In-Person Learning

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