Through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, funding was allocated to the US Department of Education (USED) to make another supplemental round of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER III) Funds grants. These funds are to be used in addition to those already provided under the Education Stabilization Fund via the CARES and CRRSA Acts.
The ESSER III Fund provides State Education Agencies (SEAs), and their local educational agencies (LEAs), with emergency relief funds to address the impact that COVID-19 has had - and continues to have - on elementary and secondary schools across the country.
LEAs that receive ESSER III funds must reserve at least 20% of their allocation to address learning loss through the implementation of evidence-based interventions, such as summer learning or summer enrichment, extended day, comprehensive afterschool programs, or extended school year programs. Further they must ensure that such interventions respond to student's unique academic, social, and emotional needs and address the disproportionate impact of coronavirus on student subgroups including racial and ethnic minorities, economically disadvantaged, students with disabilities, English language learners, gender, migrant status, students experiencing homelessness, and children and youth in foster care.
Of an LEA's remaining ESSER III allotment, grant funds may be used towards the following:
- Any activity authorized by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, and the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006.
- 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.
- 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, coordinating, and implementing activities during long-term closures, including providing meals to eligible students, providing technology for online learning to all students, providing guidance for carrying out requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and ensuring 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 children with disabilities, which may include assistive technology or adaptive equipment.
- Providing mental health services and supports, including through the implementation of evidence-based full-service community schools.
- Planning and implementing activities related to summer learning and supplemental after-school programs, including providing classroom instruction or online learning during the summer months and addressing the needs of low-income students, children 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; and
- 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 nonmechanical heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, filtering, purification, and other air cleaning, fans, control systems, and window and door repair and replacement.
- Developing strategies and implementing public health protocols including, to the greatest extent practicable, policies in line with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the reopening and operation of school facilities to effectively maintain the health and safety of students, educators, and other staff.
- Other activities that are necessary to maintain the operation of and continuity of services in local educational agencies and continuing to employ an existing staff of the local educational agency.
Note: LEAS that receive ESSER III funds shall develop and make publicly available on the local educational agency's website, not later than 30 days after receiving the allocation of funds, a plan for the safe return to in-person instruction, and continuity of services. Further, before making the plan publicly available, the LEA shall seek public comment on the said plan and take such comments into account in the final development of the plan. If the LEA has already developed a plan for the safe return to in-person instruction before March 11, 2021, that meets the public comment requirements described above, that plan shall be deemed to satisfy this requirement.
Individual LEA allocations as of July 21, 2021 can be seen at http://www.nysed.gov/common/nysed/files/programs/federal-education-covid-response-funding/arp-esser-allocations-chart.xlsx
NYSED required each LEA receiving federal ARP-ESSER funding to post on their website, on or before July 1, 2021, a plan by school year of how such funds will be expended and how the LEA will prioritize spending on non-recurring expenses in the following areas:
LEAs were to identify any programs utilizing such funding that are expected to continue beyond the availability of such federal funds and identify local funds that will be used to maintain such programs in order to minimize disruption to core academic and other school programs. Before posting such plan, the budget language states that the LEA is to seek public comment from parents, teachers and other stakeholders on the plan and to take such comments into account in the development of the plan.
On August 5, 2021 the USDE approved New York's State plan for ARP ESSER, distributing the remaining $3 billion to the state. State Plan Highlights can be viewed at http://www.p12.nysed.gov/funding/arp-esser/arp-esser-ny-plan-highlights.pdf