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ESSER III, the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund grant program authorized under American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act, provides additional money for local educational agencies (LEAs) to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19. ESSER III supplements ESSER I, created by the CARES Act in March 2020, and ESSER II, created by the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act in December 2020.

ESSER III Formula Grants to LEAs


As required, DPI will calculate ESSER III allocations to LEAs using the 2020-21 Every Student Succeeds Act, Title I, Part A formula, which is based on the number and percentage of children from low-income families. Title I requirements do not apply to ESSER III funds.

The Joint Committee on Finance directed DPI to distribute a portion of ESSER III funds based upon an in-person instruction requirement, for districts receiving less than $781 per pupil under the Title I, Part A formula allocation. Information on this requirement and the data collection to submit hours of instruction is available from the School Financial Services Team on their ESSER II & III Hours of Instruction Data Collection webpage. These funds will be added to the ESSER formula allocations.

Note: Upon USDE’s approval of the state’s ESSER III Plan additional funding will be made available to some LEAs and other educational entities.

Performance Period

The ESSER III grant performance period is March 13, 2020-September 30, 2024.

Maintenance of Equity

To receive ESSER III funds, LEAs must meet Maintenance of Equity requirements


ESSER III funds are subject to the same reporting requirements as ESSER I, GEER, and ESSER II. DPI will collect additional information if required by USDE.

Equitable Services to Private Schools

LEAs are not required to provide equitable services with ESSER III. Congress provided additional funding to the Emergency Assistance for Non-Public Schools (EANS) program, administered by the DPI. For more information, visit DPI’s EANS webpage.

Application and Fiscal Considerations

Allowed Activities and Costs

All activities allowed under ESSER I and ESSER II are also allowed under ESSER III, with an additional emphasis on assessing and addressing learning loss. All activities supported by ESSER III must prevent, prepare for, or respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

LEAs receiving funds under ESSER III are required to reserve no less than 20 percent of their allocation for the purpose of addressing learning loss through the implementation of evidence-based interventions. These interventions must respond to students’ academic, social, and emotional needs and address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on students from low-income families, students of color, English learners, students with disabilities, students experiencing homelessness, children and youth in foster care, and migratory students.

LEAs should take comprehensive action to restore and maintain high-quality learning environments and safely reopen elementary and secondary schools as soon as possible. In doing so, LEAs should pay particular attention to the needs of students disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Application Overview

The application will be available in WISEgrants by the fall of 2021. DPI consultants will review applications in the order they are received. LEAs can claim funds as soon as their applications are approved.

Video Walkthrough of the ESSER III Application

The ESSER III grant application will consist of the following:

  1. Assurances (including Paying Employees and Contractors to the Greatest Extent Practicable)
  2. ESSER III LEA Plan, developed in consultation with stakeholders
  3. Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan
    CESA 5 has developed this template version of the Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan for LEAs across the state to utilize.
  4. Budget (including a description of the steps to be taken to overcome applicable barriers to ensure equitable access for all students within the LEA as required under the General Education Provision Act Section 427)
Required Consultation with Stakeholders

LEAs must provide opportunities for stakeholders to meaningfully and substantively contribute to their ESSER III Plan. Consultation must occur prior to submitting a plan in WISEgrants. 

LEAs may use this ESSER III Stakeholder Engagement slidedeck (Google Slides - click "Make a Copy" to create a local editable copy) to guide stakeholder input sessions.

All LEAs must consult with the following groups:

  • students
  • families
  • school and district administrators (including pupil services/special education administrators)
  • teachers, principals, school leaders, other educators, school staff, and their unions

To the extent present in or served by the LEA, LEAs must also consult with the following groups:

  • American Indian Nations
  • civil rights organizations (including disability rights organizations)
  • stakeholders representing the interests of
    • children with disabilities,
    • English learners,
    • children experiencing homelessness,
    • children in foster care,
    • migratory students,
    • children who are incarcerated, and
    • other underserved students

In addition, LEAs must provide the public the opportunity to provide input to the ESSER III Plan and take such input into account.


LEAs must submit an ESSER III plan to DPI describing the following:

  1. How funds will be used to implement prevention and mitigation strategies that are, to the greatest extent practicable, consistent with the most recent CDC guidelines on reopening schools, in order to continuously and safely open and operate schools for in person learning
  2. How the LEA will use at least 20% to address the academic impact of lost instructional time through the implementation of evidence-based interventions, as defined by the Every Student Succeeds Act (Note: In addition to interventions provided during the regular school day/school year, this may also include summer learning or summer enrichment, extended day, comprehensive after school programs, or extended school year programs.)
  3. How the LEA will spend its remaining ESSER III funds, consistent with allowed activities defined in the ARP Act
  4. How the LEA will ensure that the interventions it implements, including but not limited to the interventions under #2 above, respond to the academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs of all students, particularly those students disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the following:
    1. students from low-income families
    2. students of color
    3. English Learners
    4. children with disabilities
    5. students experiencing homelessness
    6. children in foster care
    7. migratory students

WISEgrants staff are working to ensure that, to the greatest extent possible, information required for the ESSER III plan is automatically compiled from other parts of the application, such as the budget. Once the LEA’s application is approved, WISEgrants will generate a pdf version of the plan that must be posted on the LEA’s website.

Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan

LEAs must describe the following:

  1. How the LEA will maintain the health and safety of students, educators, and other staff, and the extent to which the LEA has adopted policies (including a description of any such policies) regarding each of the following safety recommendations established by the CDC:
    1. Universal and correct wearing of masks
    2. Modifying facilities to allow for physical distancing (e.g., use of cohorts/podding)
    3. Handwashing and respiratory etiquette
    4. Cleaning and maintaining healthy facilities, including improving ventilation
    5. Contact tracing in combination with isolation and quarantine, in collaboration with the State, local, territorial, or Tribal health departments
    6. Diagnostic and screening testing
    7. Efforts to provide vaccinations to school communities
    8. Appropriate accommodations for children with disabilities with respect to health and safety policies
    9. Coordination with State and local health officials
  2. How the LEA will ensure continuity of services, including but not limited to services to address the following:
    1. student academic needs and
    2. student and staff social, emotional, mental health, and other needs, which may include student health and food services
Fiscal Considerations

ESSER III provides LEAs with short-term relief funds to address the effects of COVID-19 on elementary and secondary schools. ESSER III is not an ongoing program to support long-term expenses. DPI encourages LEAs to spend down ESSER I, GEER, and ESSER II funds before spending ESSER III funds.

The grant performance period is from March 13, 2020, through September 30, 2024. If an LEA chooses to include costs from a prior year, and is outside the revenue recognition period for that year (most often 60 days after fiscal year end), those costs need to be documented after the fact. Costs from the current fiscal year, or from the previous year within its revenue recognition period, must be coded or re-coded to the ESSER III project.

LEAs intending to include special education (Fund 27) costs should take extra care about timely budgets and claims to avoid unintended IDEA Maintenance of Effort (MOE) consequences.

DPI has assigned WUFAR project 165 for ESSER III expenditures. ESSER III claim payment revenues are coded with WUFAR source 730, in the same fund as the original expenditures that were claimed. Although best practice is to align grant expenditures and revenues in the same fiscal year, DPI recognizes that the unique multi-year nature of the ESSER programs can make it difficult to do so. LEAs should discuss with their auditors how ESSER III activities are recorded and considered for compiling Schedule of Expenditures of Federal Awards (SEFA).

ESSER III funds are not subject to a supplement-not-supplant requirement, and use of funds is very flexible. However, ESSER III funds are subject to the Education Department General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR) and the federal government’s Uniform Grant Guidance (UGG), including the requirement that spending be necessary and reasonable.

Evidence-Based Intervention Strategies

ESSER III funds offer a unique opportunity for LEAs and their schools to change the systems and practices needed to improve student learning. LEAs are required to reserve at least 20% of ESSER III funds for evidence-based intervention strategies (EBIS) and ensure that those interventions respond to students’ social, emotional, and academic needs and address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on underrepresented student subgroups. With this dedicated funding for evidence-based interventions to respond to needs caused by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, LEAs can invest fully in successful implementation of new or current EBIS to ensure all students thrive. If an LEA receives any additional funds for in-person instructional hours for ESSER III, 100% of those additional funds must be used for EBIS. ESSER III funds are available through September 30, 2024.

    The American Rescue Plan Act defines “evidence-based” as having the meaning in section 8101(21) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act which includes tiers of evidence. Examples of EBIS might include extended school day for students disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, after school programming, summer programming, the implementation of high-quality, standards-aligned curriculum, or practices outlined in Institute of Education Sciences (IES) practice guides for reading, writing, and math.

    See the ESSER III Funds and Evidence-Based Intervention Strategies (EBIS) Resource (Google Doc) for information on selecting evidence-based intervention strategies in WISEgrants. The ESSER III EBIS Cost Examples (Google Doc) includes a sample of the types of expenditures LEAs may use to reserve at least 20 percent for EBIS.

    Definitions of the tiers of evidence from the US Department of Education's Non-Regulatory Guidance: Using Evidence to Strengthen Education Investments:

    • Tier 1 Strong: Randomized, control research design
    • Tier 2 Moderate: Well-Implemented, quasi-experimental research design
    • Tier 3 Promising: Well-Designed, well-implemented correlational study
    • Tier 4 Demonstrating A Rationale: Promising practices with a well-designed logic model or theory of action, are supported by research, and includes ongoing efforts to examine the effects of such activity, strategy, or intervention.

    Additional Resources:

    ESSER III State Plan

    States were required to engage in meaningful consultation with stakeholders and submit a state plan for ESSER III Funds to the United States Department of Education (USDE). Receipt of all ESSER III funding is contingent upon approval of the state plan.

    As required, DPI will distribute 90 percent of Wisconsin’s ESSER III allocation to LEAs. The plan also includes three required earmarks for activities and interventions that respond to students’ academic, social, and emotional needs and address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on underrepresented student subgroups, including each major racial and ethnic group, children from low-income families, children with disabilities, English learners, gender, migrant students, students experiencing homelessness, and children and youth in foster care:

    • 5 percent for the implementation of evidence-based interventions aimed specifically at addressing learning loss, such as summer learning or summer enrichment, extended day, comprehensive afterschool programs, or extended school year programs
    • 1 percent for evidence-based summer enrichment programs
    • 1 percent for evidence-based comprehensive afterschool programs

    Note: DPI submitted a modified ESSER III state plan which includes Motion #57 to the US Department of Education for review on August 27, 2021. DPI re-submitted a further modified ESSER III state plan to the US Department of Education for review on November 1, 2021. The ESSER III state plan was reviewed by the US Department of Education and partially approved on December 6, 2021. The US Department of Education is asking Wisconsin to submit a new proposal for how the remaining ESSER III funds are to be spent.