COVID-19 Legislation and How it Impacts Local Educational Agencies

May 16, 2020 | Article

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provides assistance in multiple forms that impact local educational agencies.

While there may be a tendency for local educational agencies (LEAs) to focus on the assistance provided by the U.S. Department of Education (ED), there are other sources of assistance that may be available. The urgency of the response to provide assistance has resulted in the issuance of guidance related to many aspects of these programs (allowable activities and whether these programs are subject to the single audit process are examples).

Here are some of the primary forms of assistance available to educational agencies.

CARES Act Provisions for Educational Organizations
The CARES Act includes multiple grant programs to help LEAs prevent, prepare for, and respond to the effects of COVID-19 on their organizations.

The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) – CFDA Number 84.425D

ESSER allocations to LEAs are based on the proportion of Title I, Part A funds each LEA received in the most recent fiscal year. However, ESSER funds are not required to be allocated to specific schools because school and student eligibility, supplement not supplant, and other Title I requirements do not apply to ESSER. LEAs receiving ESSER funds are to provide equitable services to students and teachers in non-public schools.

ESSER funds will remain available for obligation through September 30, 2022, and will be available for pre-award costs back to March 13, 2020. Please note that the frequently asked question about ESSER funds as posted by the ED note that these funds are subject to audit requirements under the Single Audit Act.

The Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER) – CFDA Number 84.425C

Governors may use these funds to provide emergency support grants to LEAs most significantly impacted by COVID-19 (as determined by the state educational agency), and provide support to any other LEA or other educational entity the governor deems essential for carrying out emergency educational services.

Specifically, support grants can be given to students for the following activities:

  • Allowable ESSER activities
  • Activities under the Higher Education Act
  • The provision of childcare and early childhood education
  • Social and emotional support
  • The protection of education-related jobs

GEER funds will be available for obligation through September 30, 2022, and will be available for pre-award costs back to March 13, 2020. LEAs receiving GEER funds are to provide equitable services to students and teachers in non-public schools. Please note that the certification and agreement for funding under the Education Stabilization Fund Program Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund document notes that these funds are subject to the Single Audit Act.

Formula Grants to Outlying Areas – CFDA Number 84.425A (SEA) & 84.425H (Governors)
Congress set aside one-half of 1% of the $30.75 billion allotted to the Education Stabilization Fund through the CARES Act for formula grants to the outlying areas of the United States, specifically the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa. One will be made to governor’s offices and one will be made to the state education agency. Each will have its own certification and agreement and its own uses of funds.

Rethinking K12 Education Model Grants (REM) – CFDA 84.425B
REM Grants provide support to state educational agencies in states with the highest coronavirus burden to address specific educational needs of students, their parents, and teachers in public and non-public elementary and secondary schools in accordance with section 18001(a)(3) of the CARES Act.

Reimagining Workforce Preparation Grants (RWP) – CFDA 84.425G
RWP Grants provide support to help states leverage the power of entrepreneurship to create new educational opportunities and pathways that help citizens return to work, small businesses recover, and new entrepreneurs thrive. These programs also build new capacity within the state to offer short-term postsecondary programs that are responsive to the needs of individuals to more rapidly adapt and evolve to ever changing workplace and community needs.

Department of Education Funding Available
In additional to the new stream of federal revenues, ED has granted approval for flexibility in using federal funds to ease the immediate impact on school closures triggered by the COVID-19 crisis. The flexibility alleviates the restrictions in place on how and when federal funds can be spent.

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) has offered relief in two key areas:

  • Employee Compensation. ED will permit grantees and subgrantees to continue to use federal funds to pay employees even if they cannot work on program activities because of closure due to COVID-19. Grantees and subgrantees must follow uniform policies that give the same treatment to federal and non-federal funds and must maintain time and effort and other documentation.
  • Cancelled activities or travel. ED will permit grantees and subgrantees to use federal funds to pay costs related to a cancelled grant-related conference, training, or other activity. Grantees and subgrantees must first seek to recover nonrefundable costs and exercise any emergency or “act of God” contract provision that might be available.

Using authority given by the CARES Act, ED has waived the following requirements:

  • The carryover limit for 2019-2020 Title I, Part A funds.Carryover limitation of 15% will be removed under this waiver.
  • The period of availability to spend 2018-2019 funds for many ED programs. Normally, any money awarded is to be obligated within 27 months. This waiver allows LEAs another 12 months to obligate the funds. The programs covered by this waiver are: Section 1003, Title I, Part A, C, and D, Subpart 1; Title II, Part A; Title III, Part A; Title IV, Part A and B; Title V, Part B; and McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youth Program. In addition, ED recently announced it will offer period of availability waivers to extend the spending deadline for 2018-2019 Perkins funds and AEFLA funds.

Other key waivers include:

  • Section 4106(d) of Title IV, Part A of the ESEA to waive a needs assessment to justify the use of funds
  • Section 4106(e)(2)(C), (D), and (E) of Title IV, Part A of the ESEA to waive content-specific spending requirements
  • Section 4109(b) of Title IV, Part A of the ESEA to waive spending restrictions on technology infrastructure
  • Section 8101(42) of the ESEA to waive the definition of "professional development," which might otherwise limit the ability to quickly train school leaders and teachers on topics like effective distance learning techniques

U.S. Department of Treasury
Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) – CFDA 21.019
CRF Grants provide support to states and local governments to costs expenditures arising from the public health emergency with respect to COVID-19 and any additional expenditures that were not accounted for in the budget most recently approved as of March 27, 2020.

These funds may be transferred from the recipient state or local government to an LEA. Fund payments are considered to be federal financial assistance subject to the Single Audit Act. The funds are available from March 1, 2020, through December 31, 2020.

Payroll Protection Program (PPP)
The Paycheck Protection Program prioritizes millions of Americans employed by small businesses by authorizing up to $349 billion toward job retention and certain other expenses. Small businesses and eligible nonprofit organizations (such as charter school organizations), veterans organizations, and tribal businesses described in the Small Business Act, as well as individuals who are self-employed or are independent contractors, are eligible if they also meet program size standards.

Governmental agencies receiving loans under the PPP through the Small Business Administration are encouraged to follow the guidance on extinguishments of debt to determine the timing of recognition for any amount of loan forgiveness. PPP loan forgiveness requires completion of an application and calculation of the amount subject to loan forgiveness.

Learn more about eligibility for the PPP loan and steps to PPP loan forgiveness.

Understand What’s Available
There are many relief provisions in play when it comes to local education associations. It’s important to understand the eligibility and compliance requirements for each, as well as how they will impact your organization.

Need help understanding how your education association is impacted by relief provisions?

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