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Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act

The CARES Act, signed into law on March 27, 2020, provides economic stimulus to individuals, businesses, hospitals, and Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) in response to the economic distress caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Education Stabilization Funds

Division B, Title VIII, of the CARES Act is named “Education Stabilization” and appropriates funds through the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Program and the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) program. 

GEER Funds

On July 23, 2020, Gov. Evers announced that 156 LEAs and 3 Tribal Schools are eligible to apply for the $46.6 million provided to Wisconsin through the GEER program. Based on recommendations from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) and in consultation with State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor, the governor outlined eligibility criteria for schools most significantly impacted by COVID-19. Criteria are based on economic disadvantage, access to personal computing devices, access to internet, and students’ score on the English Language Arts Assessment. DPI will administer these grants through WISEgrants. For more information, visit the GEER Grants page.


DPI’s plan for $174 million in ESSER funding was approved by Wisconsin’s Legislative Joint Finance Committee on May 13, 2020, and approved by the United States Department of Education (USDE) on May 20, 2020.

The plan includes a four-pronged approach to providing direct, immediate, and comprehensive relief to LEAs.

  1. Providing grants to LEAs—More than 90 percent of the state’s ESSER funds will be directly awarded to LEAs. No LEA will receive less than $40,000. For more information, visit the ESSER Grant Program page.
  2. Building capacity for, and expanding access to, high-quality online instructional resources. For more information, visit the Building Capacity for and Expanding Access to High-Quality Online Instructional Resources page.
  3. Providing training for educators in the provision of online and remote instruction. For more information, visit the Providing Training for Educators in the Provision of Online and Remote Instruction page.
  4. Expanding and building capacity of school staff to provide mental health services, to better support students. For more information, visit the Expanding and Building Capacity of School Staff to Provide Mental Health Services page.


The CARES Act also allowed USDE to waive some requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) for LEAs. The list of the federal requirements waived pursuant to the CARES Act and what these waivers mean for LEAs is available in the document below.

Reporting Grant Fraud—Federal and State