The #1 Curriculum and Assessment Partner for Educators

Breaking Down the CARES Act for Educators

Breaking Down the CARES Act for Educators

Recently, we held a webinar that broke down the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) and its impacts on education. We answered your questions about what is included in the bill for education, what the funds can be used for, when the money will be available, and more.

Check out a basic overview of those questions below, but to learn more about the CARES Act, watch our OnDemand webinar, where we discuss in greater detail this stimulus package as it compares to the stimulus packages passed in previous years, things to consider when planning for the next school year and using these funds, more about the recent waivers related to accountability and policy, and more.  

What’s in the CARES Act for education? How much money are schools getting?

To the overall economy, the CARES Act provides a total of around $2 trillion in relief related to the COVID-19 crisis and the economic downturn. Of that $2 trillion, about $30.75 billion is directly allocated to the Education Stabilization Fund. The core pieces of the CARES Act for education include $13.2 billion going to K–12 education under the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, also known as the ESSER Fund, and another approximately $3 billion going to governors that can be distributed in states to either K–12 or postsecondary schools. This is called the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, or GEER Fund. Then, approximately $14.25 billion is specifically set aside for postsecondary education in the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, HEER Fund.

There are additional funds that are not directly set aside for education but are relevant or indirectly related to educational needs. These include food programs, childcare, Head Start programs, and the rural development program. Those break down as follows:

  • $15.81 billion in additional funding to SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
  • $8.8 billion to child nutrition programs, which are in place to make sure that children have meals while schools are closed
  • $3.5 billion is allocated to provide childcare for low-income families
  • $750 million for the National Head Start Association
  • $100 million in Project SERV grants, which can be used to help clean and disinfect schools, provide support for mental health services, and provide distance learning
  • $5 million for health departments to provide guidance on cleaning and disinfecting schools and daycare facilities
  • $69 million for the operation of Indian education programs funded by the Bureau of Indian Education
  • $25 million for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine programs to support distance learning, telemedicine, and broadband

When will the CARES Act funds be available?

The $13.2 billion from ESSER Funds for K–12 Schools were made available to states on April 13 through a U.S. Department of the Treasury web portal. Once registered through the portal, states will immediately receive half of the funds. The remaining balance was to be added no later than April 24. These funds will be distributed to districts within each state proportionally based on Title I, Part A formula. An important thing to note is that these are not competitive grants.

On April 14, the U.S. Department of Education made approximately $3 billion available in the GEER Fund—the governor’s funds. States are supposed to receive those funds within about three days after completing the online application—so states should have received these funds by now. The amount of the GEER Fund that each state receives is based on state population, and each state is individually responsible for determining how these funds will be allocated to districts.

How can the funds be used?

The CARES Act bill explicitly lists 12 things the funds can be used for. Those are:

1. Any activity authorized by the ESEA Act of 1965, including:

  • Native Hawaiian Education Act
  • Alaska Native Educational Equity, Support, and Assistance Act
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
  • Adult Education and Family Literacy Act
  • Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins Act)
  • Homeless Assistance Act

2. Coordination of preparedness and response efforts to coronavirus

3. Providing school leaders with resources to address the needs of their individual schools

4. Activities to address the unique needs of:

  • Low-income children
  • Children with disabilities
  • English learners
  • Racial and ethnic minorities
  • Students experiencing homelessness
  • Foster care youth

5. Systems to improve the preparation and response efforts of local educational agencies

6. Training and professional development on sanitation and minimizing the spread of infectious diseases

7. Purchasing supplies to sanitize and clean facilities

8. Planning for and coordinating during long-term closures

9. Purchasing educational technology (including hardware, software, and connectivity) [this is the part of the act that explicitly calls out that schools can use these funds on developing virtual learning programs] 

10. Providing mental health services and supports

11. Activities related to summer programs and after-school programs, including providing classroom instruction or online learning

12. Other activities that are necessary to maintain the operation of and continuity of services in local educational agencies and continuing to employ existing staff of the local educational agency

So, as you can see, the legislatures have given very broad discretion to educators to use these funds in whatever way you deem that best meets the needs of your schools and districts.

How do the CARES Act relief funds support virtual learning?

As mentioned, the CARES Act funds can be used to provide connectivity, and they can be used for devices,  virtual learning programs, digital curricula, online courses, and other software. For rural schools, an additional $25 million will be distributed through the U.S. Department of Agriculture for virtual learning and broadband connectivity. There is also flexibility to use existing funds—such as Title IV—to create and enhance virtual programs.

So, as districts struggle through the current school closures and the transition to virtual learning—AND as educators think about schools opening again and plan for the next school year—we should be planning for some level of reemergence of COVID-19  in the same way we plan for hurricanes, blizzards, or wildfires, depending on where you live. Schools need good virtual solutions that can scale quickly and meet the needs of all their students.

If you are concerned about your students being able to access quality instruction and resources for an extended period of time, we are committed to helping you by providing free access to high-quality curricula, assessment, and educational services through the remainder of the school year. The Edmentum Capacity Assistance Program (E-CAP) helps ensure that teachers can continue teaching and that students can continue learning during school closures. Together, we’ll work with you to tailor an implementation plan that establishes the best learning environment for your school or district and sets up your teachers for success in virtual instruction.