CARES Act adds funds for education | TCTA
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CARES Act adds funds for education

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The information below (posted on April 1, 2020, and last updated on Oct. 2) was compiled by TCTA with assistance from our Washington, D.C., lobby firm, Van Scoyoc Associates. It also includes information from the Southern Regional Education Board’s reporting on the stimulus package and Bloomberg’s bill summary.

On March 27, President Donald Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. The CARES Act is the third legislative measure in response to the COVID-19 crisis and is estimated to cost approximately $2 trillion. (Click here for a PDF summary of all three bills related to COVID-19 response and relief.) The measure seeks to provide relief to individuals and families through direct payments, support U.S. industries and small businesses impacted by COVID-19, and provide emergency supplemental appropriations to various agencies, including the U.S. Department of Education. The act also provides increased authority for federal agencies to waive select statutory and regulatory requirements.

Click here for information from TEA on CARES Act Funding Support for districts.

FY20 supplemental appropriations

Department of Education

The CARES Act provides $30.75 billion for an Education Stabilization Fund to states, local school districts, and institutions of higher education to help schools, students, teachers, and families with immediate needs related to coronavirus.

Special funding includes:

  • One-half of 1 percent to outlying areas (rural communities) on the basis of their respective needs determined by the secretary
  • One-half of 1 percent for the Bureau of Indian Education
  • 1 percent to provide grants to states with the highest COVID-19 burden to support activities

$13.5 billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund

From the Education Stabilization Fund, $13.5 billion in grants will be awarded to each state educational agency that submits an application with funding based upon ESSA Title I allocations.

Under the ESSER fund, a minimum of 90% of the grant to states will be allocated to districts that received Title I, Part A funding in school year 2019-20.

States will be required to submit an application that must be available from USDE within 30 days and must be approved or denied within 30 days of receipt.

An entity receiving funds under the Education Stabilization Fund is required, to the greatest extent practicable, to continue to pay its employees and contractors during the period of any disruptions or closures related to coronavirus. Related guidance is available in TEA’s Federal Funding and Grants FAQ (updated 5/21/20).

A state’s application for funds must include assurances that it will maintain support for education in fiscal years 2020 and 2021 at least at the average level of the state’s support in the three fiscal years prior to the enactment of the legislation. The U.S. secretary of education may waive this requirement to relieve the fiscal burden for states that have experienced a precipitous decline in financial resources.

The CARES Act includes a provision requiring school districts receiving these funds to provide equitable services to non-public schools in the same manner as provided under Title I of the ESEA. Although in a departure from the way equitable services have historically been calculated under the ESEA, the U.S. Department of Education issued an interim final rule providing that if a school district chooses to use CARES Act funds for students in all of its public schools, then it must calculate the funds for equitable services based on all students enrolled in private schools in the district. A federal judge recently struck down the rule, and the U.S. Department of Education said it will not appeal the judgment. Accordingly, the rule is no longer in effect. USDE will not take any action against states or local districts that followed the guidance and/or the IFR prior to notice of the court’s decision. For Texas districts, this notice was provided on Sept. 10, 2020. Accordingly, TEA updated its CARES Act Equitable Services FAQ (10/1/20), providing that school districts that originally calculated funds for equitable services based on low income based on private school location, or total private school enrollment must recalculate based on low-income private school students that reside in participating attendance areas, and can hold the extra funds from its original calculation in reserve until USDE issues further guidance. Additionally, school districts are no longer restricted to only providing ESSER services to Title I-served campuses.

According to TEA, the state is estimating that about 5% of CARES Act funding will be used to providing equitable services to private schools, based on the private school enrollment data available to TEA.

Per TEA, in the event that the district receives valid and appropriate requests for equitable services that exceed 5% of the LEA’s ESSER allocation, contact the Department of Grant Compliance and Administration at TEA has reserved a portion of state-level funds to account for any overage in equitable services incurred by a district.

Use of funds:

According to TEA’s CARES Act Funding and Expense Reimbursement FAQ (updated 5/21/20), the following activities are allowable under the grant as specified in the statute.

  • Districts discretion for any purpose under:
    • Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)
    • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
    • Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA)
    • Perkins Career and Technical Education Act
    • McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Act
  • Activities related to coordination of preparedness and response to improve coordinated responses among districts with state and local health departments and other relevant agencies to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus
  • Provide principals and others school leaders with the resources necessary to address the needs of their individual schools
  • Address the unique needs of low-income children or students, children with disabilities, English learners, racial and ethnic minorities, students experiencing homelessness, and foster students including how outreach and service delivery will meet the needs of each population
  • Developing and implementing procedures and systems to improve the preparedness and response efforts of districts
  • Training and professional development of district staff on sanitation and minimizing the spread of infectious diseases.
  • Purchasing supplies to sanitize and clean facilities operated by the district
  • Planning for and coordinating during long term closures, including for how to provide meals to eligible students, how to provide technology for on line learning to all students, how to provide guidance for carrying out requirements under IDEA, and how to ensure other educational services can continue to be provided consistent with all federal, state and local requirements
  • Purchasing educational technology (including hardware, software and connectivity) for students who are served by the local educational agency that aids in regular and substantive educational interaction between students and their classroom instructors, including low income students and students with disabilities, which may include assistive technology or adaptive equipment
  • Providing mental health services and supports
  • Planning and implementing activities related to summer learning and supplemental afterschool programs, including providing classroom instruction or online learning during the summer months and addressing the needs of low-income students, students with disabilities, English learners, migrant students, students experiencing homelessness, and children in foster care.
  • Setting up and using technology to remotely register and enroll students or recruit and hire staff.
  • Other activities that are necessary to maintain the operation of and continuity of services in districts and continuing to employ existing staff.

Where can I find the ESSER grant entitlement amounts available through the federal CARES Act that my district will receive and what are the terms?

According to TEA’s CARES Act Funding and Expense Reimbursement FAQ (updated 5/21/20), the entitlements are posted to the grant entitlements web page under the federal funds section of the TEA Grants web page.

The ESSER grant is distributed as a formula grant based on the proportionate share of the state’s Title I, Part A allocation received by each district in 2019-20. This is a statutory formula program and each eligible district will receive an entitlement amount for which they may apply by submitting the grant application. Only districts that are eligible, apply for, and received Title I, Part A funds in 2019-20 are eligible for ESSER grants.

The grant application will release in June. Training on the application will be made available around the opening date of the application. The grant period will end Sept. 30, 2022. All eligible expenditures must occur within the grant period.

According to TEA’s Federal Funding and Grants FAQ (updated 5/21/20), once the CARES Act stimulus funds are available, districts may charge additional, allowable costs that resulted from COVID-19 to fund code 266. The CARES Act funding is not intended to replace other existing funds, or costs that were already planned for and budgeted; but rather to address new, added needs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. USDE has verbally stated that the CARES Act funding will allow pre-award back to March 13, 2020. If districts choose to charge salaries (for allowable, added COVID-19 responsibilities), ensure they are new allowable responsibilities caused by COVID-19 and are reasonable, necessary, and allocable charges to the new fund source 266.

$3 billion for the Governor's Emergency Education Relief Fund

States will receive funding as follows:

  • 60 percent on the basis of their relative population of individuals aged 5 through 24.
  • 40 percent on the basis of their relative number of children under ESSA, Title I section 1124(c).

States will be required to submit an application that must be available from the USDE within 30 days and must be approved or denied within 30 days of receipt.

A state’s application for funds must include assurances that it will maintain support for education in fiscal years 2020 and 2021 at least at the average level of the state’s support in the three fiscal years prior to the enactment of the legislation. The U.S. secretary of education may waive this requirement to relieve the fiscal burden for states that have experienced a precipitous decline in financial resources.

Use of funds:

  • Grants to local educational agencies (school districts) and institutions of higher education (those deemed by the state education agency to be the most significantly impacted by COVID-19) to continue to provide educational services to their students.
  • Programs under ESSA or the Higher Education Act and the provision of childcare and early childhood education, social and emotional support, and the protection of education-related jobs.

Implementation by federal agencies

Federal agencies will be responsible for implementing the CARES Act, including distributing funds largely to states and, in some instances, local governments. Secretaries will release funding on varying timelines either through existing programs or new authority as defined in the Act.


  • The U.S. Department of Education has broad authority during the coronavirus emergency to waive obligations at the request of state or local governments, school systems, or the Bureau of Indian Education. Waivers could address academic assessments, accountability provisions, institutional support for schools, professional development, allocation and accounting for federal education funding, and reporting requirements, among other things. They would generally be limited to the current academic year. Civil rights laws could not be waived.
  • Any school located in a state that receives a waiver under the authority above, and that is identified for comprehensive support and improvement, targeted support and improvement, or additional targeted support in the 2019-2020 school year under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act shall maintain that identification status in the 2020-2021 school year and continue to receive supports and interventions consistent with the school’s support and improvement plan in the 2020-2021 school year.

Additional funding available through the CARES Act

Safe Schools and Citizenship Education: Additional funding of $10 million to supplement Project SERV, which provides targeted funding to clean and disinfect affected schools, and to assist in counseling and distance learning.

Student Aid Administration: $40 million for administrative expenses to support changes (both those carried in the bill and those made administratively) to student aid programs to help students and borrowers

CARES Act provisions outside of USDE:

  • $15.5 billion for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program
  • $8.8 billion for Child Nutrition Programs to help ensure students receive meals when school is not in session
  • $3.5 billion for Child Care and Development Block Grants, which provide child-care subsidies to low-income families and can be used to augment state and local systems
  • $750 million for Head Start early-education programs
  • $100 million in Project SERV grants to help clean and disinfect schools, and provide support for mental health services and distance learning
  • $69 million for schools funded by the Bureau of Indian Education
  • $5 million for health departments to provide guidance on cleaning and disinfecting schools and day-care facilities

TEACH Grants/Teacher Loan Forgiveness

For teachers who could not finish their year of teaching service as a result of COVID-19, their partial year of service shall be counted as a full year of service toward TEACH grant obligations or Teacher Loan Forgiveness. The CARES Act waives a requirement that teachers must serve consecutive years of teaching service for Teacher Loan Forgiveness eligibility, if a teacher’s service is not consecutive as a result of COVID-19.

Employee Provisions

Amends the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act to include among eligible employees those who are laid off after March 1, had worked for the employer not less than 30 of the last 60 days prior to the layoff, and who are then rehired.