The California Department of Education (CDE) released the assurances for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) III funds, which were authorized by the American Rescue Plan Act. Local educational agencies (LEAs) that are eligible for ESSER III funds and complete the assurances by June 25, 2021, will be included in the first apportionment, which is expected to be released in August. The assurances can be accessed here. LEAs that do not apply by June 25, 2021, may apply after the deadline to receive funds through subsequent apportionments.
Included in the assurances are the federal requirements to complete two plans:
- Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan (Safe Return Plan)
- Expenditure Plan
The Expenditure Plan will be submitted on a yet-to-be-released template, with a due date of September 30, 2021. The template will include prompts for LEAs to describe how the funds will be used to implement prevention and mitigation strategies consistent with the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, how the 20% set aside for learning loss mitigation will be spent, and how the remaining 80% will be spent consistent with the allowable uses.
The Safe Return Plan must describe how the LEA will maintain the health and safety of its students and staff, inclusive of the policies adopted for each of the CDC safety recommendations. Additionally, the Safe Return Plan must describe how the LEA will ensure continuity of services, including, but not limited to, students’ academic needs and the social, emotional, and mental health needs of its students and staff. Further, the Safe Return Plan must be publicly available within 30 days of completing the assurances.
The CDE notes that if an LEA developed a COVID-19 Safety Plan as required by the California Department of Public Health Guidance and Assembly Bill 86 prior to March 11, 2021, and the COVID-19 Safety Plan took into account public comment, the LEA may use that COVID-19 Safety Plan to meet the initial 30-day requirement. If the COVID-19 Safety Plan does not contain policies to address all the recommendations established by the CDC, then within six months of completing the assurances, the LEA must revise and post the revised plan incorporating the most recent recommendations from the CDC.
Any LEAs that do not have a COVID-19 Safety Plan that complies with the federal requirements must complete a Safe Return Plan using the CDE provided template within 30 days of completing the assurances. All LEAs must regularly review and revise, as appropriate, the Safe Return Plan at least every six months until September 30, 2023.
Questions related to plans and templates associated with ESSER III can be sent to EmergencyServices@cde.ca.gov, and general questions about ESSER III, including the assurances, can be sent to EDReliefFunds@cde.ca.gov.