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American Rescue Plan (ARP)

Recognizing the continued challenges facing schools in responding to and recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and learning disruption, the U.S. federal government authorized a third stimulus package in March 2021. The American Rescue Plan (ARP) has been signed by President Biden and includes nearly $130 billion for elementary and secondary schools.

What is the ARP?

The ARP includes several funding programs that are generally unrestricted in how schools may use them.

Program Amount Available Until* Requirements
Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER): Minimum Grants to Local Education Agencies $109.7B September 30, 2024 See in-depth information on allowable uses below.
ESSER: Minimum State Department of Education Reserve $6.1B – Learning Recovery September 30, 2024 See in-depth information on allowable uses below.
  $1.2B – Summer Enrichment    
  $1.2B – After-School Programs    
Emergency Assistance to Nonpublic Schools $2.75B September 30, 2024 These funds will be provided to governors and distributed to private schools “that enroll a significant percentage of low-income students who are most impacted” by the coronavirus. There are no restrictions on how the funds may be used by private schools
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) $2.58B – Part B No spending deadline These IDEA funds are in addition to the normal appropriations states and schools are provided under IDEA. The funds may be used as allowed under their respective IDEA sections.
  $200M – Section 619 (Preschool Grants)    
  $250M – Part C (Infants & Toddlers)    
E-rate: Emergency Connectivity Fund $7.1B September 30, 2030 These E-rate funds are on top of normal funding for the program. The supplemental funds will reimburse schools and libraries for 100% of expenses related to Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and connected devices.

*The ARP requires SEA and LEA ESSER recipients and nonpublic school recipients to “obligate” their funding by a certain deadline or return the funds. Funds are obligated when the subrecipient commits those funds to specific purposes consistent with ESSER.


How are the funds distributed?

Under the ARP ESSER program, funding is allocated to all districts by formula as follows:

  • Allocated to state educational agencies (SEAs) according to the existing Elementary and Secondary Education Act Title I-A funding formula.
  • Then, at least 90% of those state funds must be distributed to local educational agencies (LEAs) by that same formula.
  • No federal or state application process is required for LEAs to receive their allotted ARP ESSER funds. [NOTE: States may add an ARP ESSER application.]

In general, for every $1 in ESSER funds that districts received under the original Coronavirus Aid, Relief, & Economic Security (CARES) Act, they will receive about another $9 under ARP ESSER.

Find out how much your state and district receive from ARP ESSER American Rescue Plan Allocation Table.

Learn moreabout how much your state and district receive from ARP ESSER American Rescue Plan Allocation Table

Availability of Funds

The U.S. Department of Education released a statement on March 17, 2021, stating their intention “to make these funds available to [SEAs] this month.”

LEAs should expect to hear from their SEA soon about timing for district subgrant release.

What are required and allowable uses of ARP ESSER funds?

SEA Required and Allowable Uses

  • A minimum of 90% must be distributed to LEAs.
  • A minimum of 5% must be used for evidence-based interventions to address “learning loss.”
  • A minimum of 1% must be used for evidence-based summer enrichment activities.
  • A minimum of 1% must be used for evidence-based comprehensive after-school programs.
  • A maximum of 0.5% may be used for program administration.
  • A minimum of 2.5% remains for other state activities. (NOTE: Some states may choose to pass these dollars further down to LEAs.)

LEA Required and Allowable Uses

Of an LEA’s ARP ESSER funds, 80% is fairly unrestricted for use by the LEA. Anything schools use their regular federal funds for and generally anything necessary to respond to and recover from the coronavirus pandemic is allowable under ARP ESSER.

Of an LEA’s ARP ESSER funds, 20% is required to be used “to address learning loss through the implementation of evidence-based interventions.”

Here is an excerpt showing a few of the technology-related allowable uses.

  ARP ESSER Allowable Uses D2L Brightspace Solutions
  Planning for and coordinating during long-term closures, including how to provide technology for online learning to all students 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.
  Providing educational technology for all students that aids in regular and substantive educational interaction between students and their classroom instructors  
  Planning and implementing activities related to summer learning and supplemental after-school programs, including providing classroom instruction or online learning during the summer months  
  Addressing learning loss among students, 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. Tracking student attendance and improving student engagement in distance education. Brightspace offers a variety of assessment tools, custom learning pathways for differentiation and accommodation, tracking of progress toward mastery over time, and space for self-reflection on feedback. 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. 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. Help 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.
Reserve not less than 20% of the LEA’s ARP ESSER funds to address learning loss through the implementation of evidence-based interventions and to ensure that such interventions respond to students’ academic, social, and emotional needs and address the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus on [disadvantaged and disconnected students].  


How does this funding address “learning loss?”

ESSER uses of funds include addressing student learning loss at local discretion within broad guidelines (see “From the bill” text box). Given the extended amount and timeline of ESSER funding, LEAs may consider a systemic solution that provides a pathway both for the acceleration of student learning now and for the building of a more student-centered, resilient approach moving forward.

Traditional steps of extended school hours alone may be insufficient to adequately reach, engage, and support students in a scalable and sustainable manner, especially those students facing the greatest disparities.

A systemic approach includes:

  • Mastery-based, personalized learning
  • Flexible schooling models and modalities
  • Digital teaching and learning hub
  • Alignment of deeper learning and authentic assessment

From the bill

SEAs and LEAs shall, at minimum, reserve these funds “to address learning loss by supporting the implementation of evidence-based interventions … and ensure that such interventions respond to students’ academic, social and emotional needs and address the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus on” disadvantaged and disconnected student subgroups.

In combination, these approaches enable a K-12 system to emerge from the pandemic stronger than ever for the short-term learning recovery and long term to provide educational excellence and equity.

Policymakers recognize the significant challenges school districts, teachers, students, and parents have faced over the past year. Learning hasn’t been the same, and that disruption has meant the pace of learning for students hasn’t kept up with our expectations for a “normal” year.

To help schools begin the process of addressing learning recovery, ARP ESSER mandates that a minimum of nearly 25% ($28 billion) of all its funding be used to address learning loss:

  • SEA allocation—5%
  • LEA subgrant allocations—20%

Other Provisions in the ARP

State and Local Maintenance of Effort and Equity (MOE)Safe Return to In-Person Instruction PlanChild Care Provisions
ARP funding is intended to supplement state and local funding. Maintenance of effort States are prohibited for the next two years from reducing K-12 spending below their average spending levels across 2017, 2018, and 2019. Maintenance of equity LEAs, with few exceptions, are prohibited from: reducing per-pupil funding from state or local sources for any high-poverty school or reducing per-pupil, full-time equivalent staff in any high-poverty school. (This LEA requirement for maintenance of equity is a new concept in federal law.)Every LEA receiving ARP ESSER funds must make publicly available on their website a plan for the “safe return to in-person instruction and continuity of services.” Plans must be posted within 30 days of receiving funds.Several child care-related programs also received funding support through ARP. $1 billion – Head Start (available through September 30, 2022). One-time additional increase in Head Start grants $23.9 billion – Child Care Stabilization Fund (available through September 30, 2021). Providing grants to child care providers impacted by COVID-19 $14.9 billion – Child Care and Development Block Grant (available through September 30, 2021) One-time increase in program funding to provide child care assistance for health care sector employees, emergency responders, sanitation workers, and other workers deemed essential during the response to COVID-19 by public officials Income eligibility requirements waived</li

Major differences from CARES and CRRSA

State and Local Budget Stabilization

  • The ARP includes $350 billion for state and local budget stabilization.
  • Schools receive roughly 90% of their day-to-day funding from state and local sources. This funding will help backfill where states and LEAs have had to make difficult budget cuts due to the economic effects of the pandemic on revenue.

This should mean that ARP ESSER funding—even funding available through the CARES Act and Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act ESSER funds—is over and above regular budget levels, providing much-needed support for both response and recovery.

No Governors Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund

  • There is no dedicated GEER fund under the ARP as there had been under both the CARES Act and the CRRSA Act. States will only have their maximum 10% reservation from the ARP ESSER grant for statewide initiatives.
  • The CRRSA Act reserved funding from the GEER fund for private schools. That same amount, $2.75 billion, now exists in a separate fund for nonpublic schools but is largely still under the governors’ control.