Governor Tom Wolf announced today that the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) has approved Pennsylvania’s application to obtain $523.8 million in one-time federal emergency funds to help schools respond to COVID-19 impacts.
“Our schools and educators have been working tirelessly to help students and their families during this crisis,” said Governor Wolf. “These efforts must be paired with investments that reflect the unprecedented scale of this challenge. USDE’s approval of Pennsylvania’s application is an important, first step in securing those investments.”
The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) submitted its Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund application to USDE last week.
Beginning today local education agencies (LEAs) can apply to PDE to receive their allocation of the funding and can expect to start receiving funds within the next several weeks.
“As educators, our top priority has always been to ensure the health and safety of staff and students,” said Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera. “The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented change to our school communities, and school leaders across the state have stepped up to ensure students and families continue to be served. These funds will provide vital assistance during this critical time.”
Under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, at least 90%, or $471 million, of the funds will flow through to traditional public schools and charter schools. Each entity will receive an amount proportional to federal Title I-A funds received in 2019 under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
LEAs may use ESSER funding for a wide range of purposes, including food service, professional training, technology purchases, sanitization and cleaning supplies, summer and after-school programs, and mental health supports. Funds must be used by September 2022. PDE is urging school entities to prioritize investments for vulnerable students and families, including those living in the deepest poverty, students with disabilities, English learners, migrant students, students experiencing homelessness, and children in foster care.
The remaining ESSER funds will be used for state-level activities to address issues caused by COVID-19. PDE plans to use the funds to support initiatives, including remote learning, that can be designed and implemented with greater economy of scale at the state level than would be possible or practical for LEAs to pursue individually.