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[Federal Funding Timeline] Allocate, Award, Obligate, Oh My!

[Federal Funding Timeline] Allocate, Award, Obligate, Oh My!

As part of the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, three relief bills were passed during 2020 and 2021 to provide financial support to education. In these coronavirus relief packages, the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER Fund) grants were created.

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) awards these grants ­to state educational agencies (SEAs) for the purpose of providing local educational agencies (LEAs), including charter schools that are 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 nation. All ESSER Funds awarded to SEAs are in the same proportion as the amount of funds each state receives, authorized under Part A of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2000 (ESSA), in fiscal year 2019.

A few fast facts on the CARES, CRRSA, and ARP ESSER Funds:

  • The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act signed into law on March 20, 2021, allocated $13.2 billion to the first Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER I Fund).
  • The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021 (CRRSA), was signed into law on December 27, 2020, and it provides an additional $54.3 billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER II Fund).
  • The American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act was signed into law on March 11, 2021, and it provides $122.8 billion for the ARP Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ARP ESSER Fund).

As part of the rollout of these funds, several overlapping timelines are occurring for allocating and spending them. In order to understand the different actions required on this timeline, it is important to make the distinction between the funds being awarded and obligated.

Defining Terms: Allocated, Awarded, and Obligated

ED allocates the relief funds, which are to be distributed for particular purposes. SEAs award funds when they make a subgrant to an LEA or, in the case of the SEA Reserve, when they enter into a subgrant or contract with a subrecipient. ESSER funds are obligated when the subrecipient commits those funds to specific purposes. Activities may continue beyond the deadline for obligations, but for only another 120 days. For additional information on how states and districts can use their funds, check out our Federal Funding & Allowable Uses Crosswalk.

All Things ESSER Timeline

Take a look at important dates to keep in mind as you strategize on ways to use funding for the benefit of your school or district:

[Federal Funding Timeline] Allocate, Award, Obligate, Oh My!

Note: LEAs must develop and make publicly available a plan for safe return to in-person instruction and continuity of services within 30 days of receiving ARP ESSER funds. As well, each SEA establishes the deadline by which the LEA must submit its ARP ESSER plan, no later than 90 days after receiving the LEA’s ARP ESSER allocation.

Interested in learning more about federal funding and allowable uses? Edmentum’s Federal Funding Crosswalk is designed to help state and local education agencies align their priorities to federal funding streams. Download it today!'s picture
Hadley Blangy

Hadley is a California native joining Edmentum as the Associate Director of Policy and Advocacy. She brings a demonstrated history of working at the intersection of state education agencies and partner education organizations from her previous work at the College Board and Council of Chief State Schools Officers (CCSSO). Hadley has a passion for increasing access of opportunities and achievement for underrepresented students and is excited to continue this work at Edmentum.