Biden signs 1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan into law

Here are the key provisions in the nearly $123 billion fund for K-12 schools as part of the larger COVID relief bill.
By: | March 10, 2021
Photo from whitehouse.gov

President Biden on Thursday signed the American Rescue Plan Act, H.R. 1319, passed by the House by a 220-211 vote. Biden had been expected to sign the bill on Friday but moved up the action by a day.

The legislation includes nearly $123 billion for a new Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund $2.58 billion for IDEA, Part B funds in FY 2021, and $800 million in funding to identify and provide dedicated wraparound services for students experiencing homelessness. It will also require state educational agencies to pass through 90 percent of ESSER funds received to local educational agencies “in an expedited and timely manner and, to the extent practicable, not later than 60 days after the receipt of such funds.”

The legislation also includes a dedicated $2.75 billion Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools Fund that replaces a requirement to reserve ESSER funds for equitable services that was included in earlier drafts of the bill.

“The American Rescue Plan will provide the resources needed to open schools safely and make up for lost time in the classroom,” said House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth, D-Ky., speaking in support of the bill on Wednesday.

House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott, D-Va., said “passing this rescue plan will give schools the resources they need to comply with CDC guidelines to reopen safely and remain open and give the resources needed to make up for lost time in the classroom.”

However, House Republicans decried the bill, saying it failed to require schools to reopen as a condition of receiving education funds. “The science says that the schools should be open now, every school should be open, teaching kids in the classroom,” said House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., in a discussion about the bill on March 9. “And every day they refuse to do that, it’s setting those kids back even further.”

The bill also includes $1,400 stimulus checks for individuals making less than $75,000, $300/week in enhanced unemployment through September, a $3,600 child tax credit, $130 billion for schools, $350 billion for state and local governments, $14 billion for vaccine distribution.

ESSER III provisions

Following are key provisions of the nearly $123 billion ARPA ESSER III fund included in H.R. 1319:

  • ESSER funds will be distributed to SEAs based on the proportion of Title I, Part A funds the SEA received from ED in the most recent fiscal year. ARPA Section 2001(c).
  • SEAs that receive funds must pass through at least 90 percent of the ESSER funds received to local educational agencies for services, based on the proportion of Title I, Part A funds the LEAs received in the most recent fiscal year. ARPA Section 2001(d)(1). The funds must be provided to LEAs, if possible, within 60 days of the SEA’s receipt of funds. ARPA Section 2001(d)(2).
  • SEAs must reserve at least 5 percent of funds for “evidence-based activities” to address learning loss, which could include summer learning programs, “extended day comprehensive afterschool programs, or extended school year programs.” ARPA Section 2001(f)(1).
  • SEAs must reserve at least 1 percent of funds to implement a summer enrichment program that addresses academic, social, and emotional needs for students disproportionately affected by the pandemic disruption to education, including racial and ethnic minorities, economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities, English learners, students who are migratory, students experiencing homelessness, and students in foster care. ARPA Section 2001(f)(2).
  • SEAs must reserve at least 1 percent of funds to implement evidence-based afterschool programs to meet the needs for the student groups named above. ARPA Section 2001(f)(3).
  • SEAs may reserve no more than 0.5 percent of funds for administrative costs, with the remainder of the state set-aside to be used as determined by the SEA for emergency needs. ARPA Section 2001(f)(4).
  • LEAs that receive funding from SEAs must reserve at least 20 percent of funds to address learning loss through the same methods as those allowable at the SEA level for students disproportionately affected by the pandemic’s disruption to education, including racial and ethnic minorities, economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities, English learners, students who are migratory, students experiencing homelessness, and students in foster care. ARPA Section 2001(e)(1).
  • In addition to the allowable activities included in ESSER II as passed by the CRRSA in December 2020, LEAs can use ARPA ESSER funds to develop strategies and implement public health protocols aligned with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance on reopening. ARPA Section 2001(e)(2)(Q).
  • An LEA in receipt of ESSER funds under ARPA must develop a return-to-school plan and solicit comments on the plan before posting said plan on the LEA website within 30 days of receipt of funds. However, an agency that has developed, sought comments on, and published such a plan is considered to have met this requirement. ARPA Section 2001(i).
  • ESSER III funds will remain available until Sept. 30, 2023.

Charles Hendrix covers education funding and other Title I issues for LRP Publications.

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