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Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Grant Program

The ESSER Grant Program, part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, provides funds to help LEAs respond to changes in student needs due to COVID-19 (CARES Act, Section 18003).

The DPI is awarding more than $158 million in ESSER funds directly to Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) through grants.

Applying for an ESSER Grant

ESSER Grant applications for LEAs are expected to be available in WISEgrants by the end of July, 2020. The grant performance period is 3/13/20-9/20/22. DPI consultants will review applications in the order they are received. LEAs can claim funds as soon as their applications are approved.

Program Planning

Create a plan for your LEA that meets your unique needs. This doesn’t necessarily mean conducting a formal needs assessment. Simply reaching out to families and looking at whatever data you have will help you make more effective decisions. Data may include student data, financial data, feedback from the community, etc. Once you’ve analyzed your data, determine the best uses of ESSER funds. The CARES Act provides a broad, permissive list of allowable LEA activities in Section 18003(d).

In the application, you will tie costs to one or more of the following program types:

  • Preparedness and response to COVID-19
  • Outreach and services to special populations
  • Addressing long-term closures
  • Education technology
  • Mental health supports
  • Addressing afterschool and summer activities
  • Continued staff employment

Removing Barriers to Participation

For each program type included in your application, you will need to provide a concise description of steps to be taken to overcome applicable barriers to equitable participation. The General Education Provisions Act (GEPA), Section 427 highlights six types of barriers: gender, race, national origin, color, disability, and age. For details, visit the GEPA Section 427 page. 

Equitable Participation for Private School Students

Equitable participation for private school students applies to ESSER grant funds. The process will be the same as that for ESEA, involving meaningful consultation and submission of Affirmation of Consultation forms. 

The CARES Act requires that an Local Education Agency (LEA) maintain all control of  federal funds, materials, equipment, and property. LEAs may make purchases and contract for services on behalf of the private school, but shall not reimburse the private school for any purchases or contract of services made by the private school (CARES Act, Section 18005(b)).

Paying Employees and Contractors

As part of the application process, you must sign an assurance that the LEA is paying employees and contractors to the greatest extent practicable. For details, visit the Paying Employees and Contractors to the Greatest Extent Practicable page.

Eligible Costs

Eligible costs incurred on or after March 13, 2020 may be included.

Please note that including costs incurred between March 13 and June 30, 2020 may require shortened timelines due to LEA revenue recognition policies. LEA program staff, business officials, and auditors should work together to insure the process and timeline for submitting budgets and claims allows alignment of ESSER revenues with expenditures.

The CARES Act requires that an Local Education Agency (LEA) maintain all control of  federal funds, materials, equipment, and property. LEAs may make purchases and contract for services on behalf of the private school, but shall not reimburse the private school for any purchases or contract of services made by the private school (CARES Act, Section 18005(b)).


Background

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. Division B, Title VIII, of the CARES Act is named “Education Stabilization” and provides funds through the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Program and the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) program. GEER funds were given to the Governor for distribution. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) is administering ESSER funds.

DPI’s plan for 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.