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Maximizing Emergency Relief Funding (ESSER) for School Districts

K–12 School Funding Opportunities with Federal Stimulus Aid—CARES Act, CRRSA, and the American Rescue Plan

CARES Act

The first stimulus package to support elementary and secondary schools via ESSER and its companion, the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund.

Learn moreabout the CARES Act

CRRSA

The second round of stimulus funding—the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations—including highlighted changes in allowable uses.

Learn moreabout CRRSA

American Rescue Plan

The third round of stimulus funding, including highlighted changes in allowable uses and the learning loss set-aside.

Learn moreabout American Rescue Plan

About ESSER

  • The U.S. federal government has issued three stimulus packages since March 2020 that include significant funding support for states and schools responding to and recovering from the COVID-19 crisis. The funding available for K–12 schools and districts under each stimulus bill is known as the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund.

    CARES Act—ESSER I
    March 2020

    CRRSA—ESSER II
    December 2020
    American Rescue Plan—ARP ESSER
    March 2021
    $13B

    Funding Allocated to SEAs: April 2020
    Funding Obligation Deadline by SEAs and LEAs: September 2022

    $54B

    Funding Allocated to SEAs: January 2021
    Funding Obligation Deadline by SEAs and LEAs: September 2023

    $123B

    Funding Allocated to SEAs: March 2021
    Funding Obligation Deadline by SEAs and LEAs: September 2024

  • Under each of these programs, ESSER funding is allocated to all districts by formula as follows:

    • To states according to the existing ESEA Title I-A funding formula.
    • Then, at least 90% of those state funds under each ESSER Fund must be distributed to local education agencies (LEAs) by that same formula.
    • No federal or state application process is required for LEAs to receive their allotted ESSER funds. [NOTE: States may add an ARPA application.]

    In general, for every $1 in ESSER funds that districts received under the original CARES Act, they will receive about another $4 under CRRSA and about another $9 under the American Rescue Plan.

    Find out how much your state and district receives from ESSER:

  • The CARES Act, CRRSA, and the American Rescue Plan all allow ESSER funds to be used to reconnect students with high-quality learning access, implement solutions to accelerate learning and close gaps exacerbated by the pandemic, and to build resilience into our education systems to avoid future learning disruption.

    Use of ESSER funds by school districts is generally unrestricted, including for any activity authorized by the ESEA, IDEA, Perkins CTE Act, and other federal education laws. However, each of the stimulus packages also include specific additional allowable uses. Here are those related to technology and post-pandemic recovery:

    Allowable use of ESSER funds CARES (ESSER I) CRRSA (ESSER II) ARP ESSER
    Providing technology for online learning to all students that aids in regular and substantive educational interaction between students and their classroom instructors. Yes Yes Yes
    Addressing learning loss among students, including by:

    1. 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.
    2. Implementing evidence-based activities to meet the comprehensive needs of students.
    3. Providing information and assistance to parents and families on how they can effectively support students, including in a distance learning environment.
    4. Tracking student attendance and improving student engagement in distance education.
    Yes Yes
    LEAs are required to use at least 20% of their American Rescue Plan ESSER funds “to address learning loss through the implementation of evidence-based interventions.”[1] Yes
  • Allowable use of ESSER funds How Brightspace by D2L can help
    Providing technology for online learning to all students that aids in regular and substantive educational interaction between students and their classroom instructors Set up flexible learning options across your district based on student and community needs—blended, hybrid, or fully virtual. Seamlessly share messages to communicate about class activities, or connect face-to-face with students over video, all from right inside the Brightspace platform.
    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 Brightspace offers a variety of assessment tools, custom learning pathways for differentiation and accommodations, tracking of progress toward mastery over time, and space for self-reflection on feedback.
    Implementing evidence-based activities to meet the comprehensive needs of students Incorporate evidence-based activities like assessment and analytics to identify student needs, personalize content to differentiate instruction, and involve families in their children’s learning progression.
    Providing information and assistance to parents and families on how they can effectively support students, including in a distance learning environment Communicate with families in a timely and meaningful way to increase engagement. Brightspace Parent & Guardian allows authorized parents and guardians to log in to see their child’s classroom feed, graded items, upcoming activities, and more.
    Tracking student attendance and improving student engagement in distance education Improve student engagement with immediate feedback and guidance, personalized notifications, and badges/certifications for progress and performance. Track student activity in course content, tasks, and assessment engagement even during hybrid and asynchronous learning.
    Addressing learning loss through the implementation of evidence-based interventions Brightspace is a centralized teaching and learning hub for integrating evidence-based interventions, from differentiated instruction to universally designed content to learning tasks that drive student engagement to analytics dashboards.

How to leverage ESSER Funding for Post Pandemic Recovery

ESSER Funding can be used to reconnect students with high-quality learning access and to implement solutions to accelerate learning and close gaps exacerbated by the pandemic. To help you understand how much your state and district receives from ESSER and help you maximize this funding for your district, we have pulled everything you need to know and combined it into one easy-to-use resource.

How can K–12 school districts maximize ESSER funding?

A learning management system (LMS) can provide an infrastructure for resilient learning and is an allowable use of federal stimulus funding. One way that K–12 school districts can maximize their ESSER funds is by using an LMS that solves multiple challenges by offering personalized instruction, flexible learning options, custom pathways, high-quality assessments, student engagement, and professional development for teachers and staff.

The Brightspace LMS is one such LMS, as it helps provide critical support for districts to develop an adaptable infrastructure for returning our schools to teacher-led, student growth-focused systems of learning.

Leveraging the COVID-19 Emergency Education Relief Fund to Build for Long-term Resiliency

D2L was joined by leaders in the education space—AASA, NSBA, and KnowledgeWorks—to discuss leveraging stimulus funding for post-pandemic planning and to reimagine teaching and learning.

Learn how ESSER funding can be used for a learning management system today.

Use the form below to drop us an email and we’ll contact you as soon as we can.

The information contained on this webpage is for informational purposes only. Please consult with the CARES Act, the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund, and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 for official guidance.

[1]H.R.1319 – American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 – Use of Funds