Deciphering new Covid-19 relief money for schools

At Budget Challenge we know that Covid-19 stressed already tight school budgets making it difficult for some schools to purchase our program. The good news is that help is on the way! The new $900 billion federal Covid-19 relief bill signed into law December 27 provided $54.3 billion in new federal funds for public K-12 schools and $2.75 billion for private schools. This is in addition to the previous CARES Act ESSER dollars. This received virtually no media coverage because so much attention was focused on the size of stimulus payments to individuals and whether the president would sign the bill into law.

Like most federal education dollars, there are strings attached; specifically, schools are restricted in what they can use the funding for. Schools cannot use the money for regular salaries, building maintenance, routine expenses, or new construction. They can use it for things like PPE, technology needed to deal with remote or blended learning, and education software or online curriculum. Budget Challenge qualifies as a 100% fundable expense with all the federal Covid-19 relief programs described here. We are not talking small dollar amounts here. In round numbers, the average public school district will receive $1000 per student in additional funding from what is being referred to as ESSER II. So, yes, your district can afford to purchase Budget Challenge, in fact it would be a good time to purchase a multi-year subscription. To use the funds to purchase our program, you need to contact your building-level and district personnel who approve purchasing decisions. Let them know that you want Budget Challenge for your students and that it is a 100% reimbursable expense. Request an estimate from us for the expected number of students. Multi-year subscriptions allow you to lock in pricing, funding and qualify for additional discounts.

The original CARES Act provides $13.2 billion in direct funding to local education agencies (LEAs, also known as school districts) as well as another $17 billion in funds for states to distribute as they see fit. Both public and private schools were eligible for those funds, though amounts and rules vary from state to state. LEAs are public school districts and public charter districts. Both public and private schools were eligible to receive funding through the balance of funding which states had discretion over. How the balance was allocated varied from state to state. Schools must document that funds were spent on allowable purchases. This is one reason why there is approximately $9 billion unspent from the original CARES Act ESSER funds according to the Department of Education. The good news is, there is still time to use these funds and your school may well have some.

ESSER II provides $54.3 billion in new direct funding for public school LEAs. Click here to find a table that shows each state’s allocations. Your state should be announcing district (LEA) allocations in the coming days or weeks. The $2.75 billion for private not-for-profit schools will also go through state education agencies. States will come up with their own funding formulas, so if you are a private school, it may take a little longer to receive your allocation. There are additional restrictions on how private schools can spend these funds. For example, they cannot be used on scholarships or aid for students to attend their school. But funds can be used for Budget Challenge. Again, this is a significant amount of money, averaging out to roughly $500 per student. All allocated funds must be expended by September 2022.

School purchase orders and paid invoices are documentation of an approved expense. Contact us with any questions or log in and request a quote.