Home Elementary Education CARES Act Emergency Funds Offer K-12 Institutions Chance to Upgrade Tech, Plan for Future

CARES Act Emergency Funds Offer K-12 Institutions Chance to Upgrade Tech, Plan for Future

by Margaret Brown

The CARES Act continues to be in the headlines as extensions and modifications aimed at alleviating the impacts of unemployment and work-at-home orders are made by legislators. Early on, many states closed schools to help stop the spread of the Coronavirus, so a portion of third round of CARES funding was designated to help schools specifically. Since K-12 education is a right in America, it must be provided even during a pandemic, and the CARES Act provides funds for K-12 educational institutions to continue providing educational services and ongoing functionality.

In a recent interview with Elizabeth Evans, Senior Grants Development Consultant for Education, Grants Office LLC, she discussed the CARES Act and the funding programs she felt K-12 should note and try to tap into. Of particular interest is the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, which has $2,953,230,000 in emergency support to K-12 and institutions of higher education. Specifically, grant funds awarded under the Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund may be used to:

  • provide emergency support through grants to local educational agencies that the State educational agency deems have been most significantly impacted by coronavirus and to support the ability of such local educational agencies to continue to provide educational services to their students and to support the on-going functionality of the local educational agency;
  • provide emergency support through grants to institutions of higher education serving students within the State that the Governor determines have been most significantly impacted by coronavirus to support the ability of such institutions to continue to provide educational services and support the on-going functionality of the institution; and
  • provide support to any other institution of higher education, local educational agency, or education-related entity within the State that the Governor deems essential for carrying out emergency educational services to students for authorized activities described in section 18003(d)(1) of the CARES Act or the Higher Education Act, the provision of child care and early childhood education, social and emotional support, and the protection of education-related jobs.

“These funds will be available to educational institutions through their state education agency, but first Governors have to apply on behalf of the state. Then the state education agency is going to re-grant that money at the local level,” Evans said. “This funding will be particularly helpful as institutions are looking for making technology purchases or continuing to pay staff and other such activities.”

As Evans noted, school districts should consider funding technology needs now and into the future when they look at this and other pools of CARES funding.

“Normally, when you think about funding from the government, it is from a long-range viewpoint. You are planting the seeds for payoff next school year, because, oftentimes, it can take six to eight months for the department to read through all the applications, make the decisions, and go through the contract negotiation process with those they want to fund.

“With CARES Act grants, things are moving really fast,” Evans said, “So this is a very rare opportunity for districts that are in desperate need of technology to update their tech solutions. We haven’t seen funding like this since the days of the American Reinvestment Recovery Act – not as much, but it is a considerable amount and it is technology friendly.”

She said that districts need to jump on this quickly, however, because that when she talks with technology manufacturers and resellers, she hears that their stocks are starting to become limited.

“It is starting to become first-come, first-served, because the demand is so high. We joke about the rush on toilet paper, but there also is a rush on Chromebooks,” she explained.

She cautioned that districts should remember that they have to be able to answer the sustainability question when they are seeking grants for educational technology.

“Grant funders don’t want to give to organizations that didn’t plan ahead for end-of-life of equipment,” she explained. “When districts try to take advantage of the opportunity to buy technology to support remote learning, they also need to start the planning and budgeting process for the end of life of this equipment as well.

Other points that she says school districts should keep in mind in terms of the Governor’s fund, include that it will be divided by 50, but not evenly. The Education Department will use a formula to determine how much each state will be eligible for:

  • 60 percent of the calculation is going to be based on the population of the state, ages 5-24, and
  • 40 percent on the basis of their relative number of children counted under section 1124(c) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (referred to under this heading as ‘‘ESEA’’).

Funds not used by the state within one year must be returned. But, as Evans pointed out, states would serve students well by preparing for online, remote learning going forward. This new normal of remote learning may last for a while and may be necessary again in the near future.

The CARES Act also includes other education-funding buckets that cover both K-12 and higher education. Learn more by clicking on the links below:

Elementary & Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund

Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund

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