Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Provides Funding for Students, Including Students With Disabilities
On March 27, 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law. CARES provides $2.2 trillion in relief, including funding support to States and local educational agencies (LEAs) for special education, to address the challenges created by school closures resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. CARES also requires the Secretary of Education to provide a report to congressional appropriations committees regarding recommendations for waivers of provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Section 18003(c) of CARES requires that “[e]ach State shall allocate not less than 90 percent of the grant agreed on a $2 trillion economic relief plan to funds awarded to the State under this section as subgrants to local educational agencies... in the State” in proportion to funds received by local educational agencies under part A of title I of the ESEA of 1965 in the most recent fiscal year.” Section 18003(a) of CARES allows LEAS to use the funds for, among other things, the IDEA; providing principals and other school leaders with the resources necessary to address the unique needs of their individual schools; and activities to address the unique needs of certain children, including children with disabilities; and funding to plan for, and coordinate, during long-term closure the provision of “guidance for carrying out requirements under the IDEA.”
In addition, within 30 days, the United States Secretary of Education is required to submit a report to Appropriations committees of the Senate and House of Representatives “with recommendations on any additional waivers” of the IDEA the Secretary believes are necessary to be enacted into law to provide limited flexibility to States and local educational agencies to meet the needs of students during the emergency involving Federal primary responsibility determined to exist by the President. Any such additional waivers would become effective only if enacted into law.
We anticipate that the California Department of Education will soon provide LEAs information regarding this funding. We will update you with this guidance — and the Secretary of Education’s report — as this information becomes available. At this time, it is premature to predict what waivers, if any, will be granted. Many LEAs wish to have FAPE, due process and other legal obligations made less burdensome during the period of school closures. The desire to have such burdens eased or clarified for the home setting extends to related laws such as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, any such further “relief”, particularly as to Section 504 and/or the ADA is just as likely or more likely to originate if at all from the Office of Civil Rights (OCR).