H.R. 133, Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, Includes $54.3 Billion to Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund
In the late evening of December 21, 2020, both the United States Senate and House of Representatives rushed to approve H.R. 133, Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, which sets forth the spending for the fiscal year 2021. Also included in this omnibus spending bill was a $900 billion pandemic aid package in which $54.3 billion will be allocated to an “Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund” to assist states and their school districts in responding to COVID-19 and its effects on our schools and their students. The bill now awaits signature by President Trump.
California should expect to receive approximately 12 – 13% of the $54.3 billion allocated by the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, and will be required to disperse at least 90% of these funds to local educational agencies (“LEAs”). States will receive the relief funds from this bill within 30 days of enactment provided they have submitted supplemental elementary and secondary school emergency relief grant applications.
LEAs are permitted to use these funds on expenditures related to school facilities repairs and improvements, including heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system projects to improve indoor air quality in school facilities; staff trainings on sanitization and minimizing the spread of disease; purchasing sanitization supplies; and improving overall response efforts to the COVID-19 spread, including improving coordination with public health departments. These allocations will help LEAs further their efforts to provide physically safe learning environments on public school campuses for students with disabilities and other at-risk youth.
Significantly, the bill also permits LEAs to use the funds for activities to improve outcomes for our students who have been severely impacted by the school closures. Specifically, the bill permits the funds to be used on the following:
- Any activity authorized by the ESEA of 1965, including the Native Hawaiian Education Act and the Alaska Native Educational Equity, Support, and Assistance Act (20 U.S.C. 6301 et seq.), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq.) (‘‘IDEA’’), the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (29 U.S.C. § 3271 et seq.), the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (20 U.S.C. § 2301 et seq.) (‘‘the Perkins Act’’), or subtitle B of Title VII of the McKinney Vento Homeless Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. § 11431 et seq.).
- Providing school principals and other school leaders with the resources necessary to address the needs of their individual schools.
- Activities to address the unique needs of low-income children or students, children with disabilities, English learners, racial and ethnic minorities, students experiencing homelessness, and foster care youth, including how outreach and service delivery will meet the needs of each population.
- Planning for, coordinating and implementing activities during long-term closures, including providing meals to eligible students, providing technology for online learning to all students, providing guidance for carrying out requirements under the IDEA and ensuring other educational services can continue to be provided consistent with all federal, state, and local requirements.
- Purchasing educational technology (including hardware, software, connectivity and other assistive technology or adaptive equipment) for students who are served by the LEA that aids in regular and substantive educational interaction between students and their classroom instructors, including low-income students and children with disabilities.
- Providing mental health services and supports.
- Planning and implementing activities related to summer learning and supplemental after-school programs, including providing classroom instruction or online learning during the summer months and addressing the needs of low-income students, children with disabilities, English learners, migrant students, students experiencing homelessness and children in foster care.
- Addressing learning loss among students, including low-income students, children with disabilities, English learners, racial and ethnic minorities, students experiencing homelessness, and children and youth in foster care, including by—
- (A) Administering and using high-quality assessments that are valid and reliable to accurately assess students’ academic progress and assist educators in meeting students’ academic needs, including through differentiating instruction.
- (B) Implementing evidence-based activities to meet the comprehensive needs of students.
- (C) Providing information and assistance to parents and families on how they can effectively support students, including in a distance learning environment.
- (D) Tracking student attendance and improving student engagement in distance education.
AALRR Northern California and Southern California Student Services and Disability Law Practice Group attorneys are available should you have any questions concerning the types of programs for students with disabilities, English learners, racial and ethnic minorities, students experiencing homelessness, foster care youth and/or at-risk youth for which you may use these relief funds, or any questions related to assessment and program design including learning loss, compensatory education and those programs developed or enhanced to deal with mental health issues made worse by COVID-19.