KDE releases guidance on how districts can use federal ESSER funds

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COVID-19 Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund Guidance for LEAs

The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) released a new guidance document May 19 about the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund to help districts decide how best to spend the funding designed to help districts respond to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The ESSER Fund was authorized by Section 18003 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to provide emergency aid to states. The KDE received $193,186,874 – 90% of which is to be distributed to local education agencies (LEAs) to support their crisis response efforts.

The document “COVID-19 Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund Guidance for LEAs” – provides guidance for schools and districts on how to evaluate their needs. LEAs should remain mindful that the ESSER Fund is an emergency fund meant to overcome barriers created by the COVID-19 pandemic and should not be used for regular, recurring expenses. Some of the items that ESSER funds may be used for include coordinating and preparing for response efforts, training on sanitation and minimizing the spread of infectious diseases, purchasing cleaning and sanitizing products, as well as activities to address the needs of certain groups of students such as low-income, English learners and racial and ethnic minorities.

ESSER Funds do not expire until Sept. 30, 2022, and it is unclear if additional emergency funds will be awarded in the future. LEAs should prioritize existing emergency needs and consider unforeseen future needs during their planning process.

“There is no doubt that this money will be a sorely needed lifeline to help our schools and districts deal with some of the fallout of the pandemic,” said Interim Commissioner Kevin C. Brown. “There are many obstacles facing schools when they plan for re-opening their doors, such as sanitation procedures, how to help children who many have fallen behind academically during the long period of non-traditional instruction and even purchasing technology to help ensure all students have the opportunity to participate in distance learning should schools need to close in-person classes again. We hope this funding can help our schools and districts respond to these challenges.”

As the COVID-19 situation evolves, the guidance documents will continue to be updated and amended as required to meet the needs of Kentucky’s schools and districts. More guidance and resources can be found on the KDE COVID-19 website.

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