Late last month, the US federal government passed a second round of COVID-relief funding. In total, the relief package amounted to $900B in aid, including more than $81B for schools and institutions of higher education.
Here are the top-level funding amounts from the Emergency Education Relief Fund:
- $54.3B for K-12 school districts
- $22.7B for Higher education institutions
- $4.1B for a Governor’s education relief fund
For K-12 school districts, the Emergency Education Relief Fund represents a 4x increase over the funds provided by the CARES Act ($13B) last March. Like the CARES Act, at least 90% of the K-12 funds will be dispersed to local education agencies and are intended to support the reopening of school buildings and providing for learning access.
Also like the CARES Act, the new relief funding supports school district investment in education technology to bridge learning and instructional access gaps. Two new allowable uses were added to the funding as well: (1) to address learning loss among students; and (2) for school facility repairs and improvements.
D2L and K20Connect held a webinar on January 5 with the School Superintendents Association (AASA), National School Boards Association (NSBA), and KnowledgeWorks to explore what is included in this education relief funding and what it means for the future of teaching and learning. You can access the webinar on demand here. We’ve also created a brief fact sheet about the Emergency Education Relief Fund.
Separately from the education funding, the Emergency Education Relief Fund included approximately $4.5B in funding to support broadband infrastructure deployment and access.
- $3.2B emergency broadband access benefit for low income families
- $1B to support tribal broadband infrastructure deployment
- $300M to support rural broadband infrastructure deployment
This funding is not directly available to schools or institutions but could serve education interests as part of a broader community plan for broadband access. The emergency broadband access benefit is intended to provide low- or no-cost broadband and hotspot access for eligible low-income families. Broadband providers will apply for the benefit rather than subscribers.
What’s not in the relief fund
As the economy and tax base have been weakened and COVID-related expenses are significant, state and local government budgets are running deficits, with many projecting significant continued losses into the next fiscal year and beyond. Notably missing from this second COVID-19 relief fund is state and local budget support to help shore up and stabilize finances in these jurisdictions.
The Emergency Education Relief Fund does include a state maintenance of effort (MOE) requirement for both K-12 and higher education spending; however, the MOE requirement can be waived by the Secretary of Education in the case of fiscal emergency. Resulting expected reductions in state and local spending in response to budget deficits would very likely lead to reductions in education funding for school districts and institutions of higher education. If that happens, some agencies and institutions may be forced to apply their Emergency Education Relief Funds to “backfill” their budgets and offset those reductions.
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