The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act enacted in March included $13.2 billion to provide local educational agencies (LEAs) with emergency relief funds to address the impact COVID-19 has had on elementary and secondary schools across the nation (see “$2.2 Trillion Federal Stimulus Package for COVID-19 Signed Into Law” in the March 2020 Fiscal Report). These resources in the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund are awarded to states in the same proportion as the funds each state received under Part A of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in fiscal year 2019.
California’s share of ESSER funds is approximately $1.65 billion. The CARES Act requires that states subgrant at least 90% of ESSER funds to LEAs in proportion to the amount of funds each LEA received under Title I, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in fiscal year 2019. States have the discretion to use their remaining ESSER funds for state-level emergency needs related to COVID-19.
California does not yet have a timeline for when LEAs can expect to receive their ESSER funds, and official LEA-level allocations are not yet available. In the meantime, School Services of California Inc. has produced a searchable database for LEAs to view an estimate of their share of the minimum $1.48 billion that will be distributed to California LEAs in accordance with the CARES Act formula.
LEAs have broad discretion to use ESSER funds to support coronavirus response activities as well as any other purpose supported by federal elementary and secondary education laws. In addition, an LEA receiving ESSER funds “must, to the greatest extent practicable, continue to compensate its employees and contractors during the period of any disruptions or closures related to COVID-19.”
The CARES Act also included approximately $3 billion for the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund. Governors are allowed to use these funds to support the ability of LEAs to continue to provide education services and to support on-going district operations. California is expected to receive $355 million from this fund, but Governor Gavin Newsom has not yet revealed how he intends to use these resources.