The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, Including $54.3 Billion to Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, Now Signed Into Law


In a previous alert issued on December 22, 2020, the Firm’s Student Services and Disabilities Law Practice Group addressed the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund within the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, which had been approved by Congress and was awaiting President Trump’s signature. Please find our previous December 22, 2020 alert by clicking here.

After almost a week of wavering, President Trump signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, into law on December 27, 2020. President Trump’s signature confirms that $54.3 billion of the $900 billion in coronavirus relief funding will be secured for K-12 public education.

We previously approximated that 12 - 13% of the $54.3 billion would be allocated to California. We now know that California will be allocated $6,709,633,866 (12.35%) of the funds. The Act requires that at least 90% of these funds be distributed to local educational agencies (“LEAs”) and permits the remaining funds to be used on state initiatives with no more than .5% of the funds to be utilized on administrative costs.

The funds aim to remediate the learning loss our students have experienced and improve outcomes for our most vulnerable students who have been significantly impacted by the coronavirus. To achieve this goal, the funds can be allocated to the following activities, including but not limited to:

  • Any activity authorized by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965;
  • Remediating learning loss for our students, including students with disabilities and other at-risk youth[1];
  • Activities to address the unique needs of low-income children or students, children with disabilities and other at-risk youth;
  • Providing students mental health services and supports;
  • Closing the digital divide for our students; 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; and
  • Planning and implementing activities related to summer learning and supplemental after-school programs.

LEAs are also permitted to expend these funds to create physically safe learning environments for our public school campuses, including on 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.

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 exacerbated by COVID-19.

[1] California is updating its terminology to refer to students historically referred to as "at-risk" as "at-promise."

This AALRR publication is intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon in reaching a conclusion in a particular area of law. Applicability of the legal principles discussed may differ substantially in individual situations. Receipt of this or any other AALRR publication does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Firm is not responsible for inadvertent errors that may occur in the publishing process. 

© 2021 Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo


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