I’m not going to lie; a part of me experienced an undeniable feeling of loss as we closed the books on the ESSER I grant. While I had not worked on the ESSER I grant for as long as many of you had, it was one of the first assignments that I received when joining NDE. This, coupled with the fact that it truly was the first of an unprecedented series of grants, made it extra special. Of course, we also have ESSER III which not only provides a whopping nine times the amount of funding as ESSER I, it also comes with unique requirements such as the Safe Return to In-Person Instruction plans, the Use of Funds plan, and the Maintenance of Equity. Lastly, we have ESSER II, which almost gets lost in the middle of the excitement of ESSER I and the magnitude of ESSER III. The middle child of the ESSER grants. But while it may seem that the ESSER II grant is made up of hand-me-down requirements from ESSER I, it does hold its own unique characteristics which deserve to be recognized. As such, this article will highlight some of the features of the ESSER II grant.
Overview, Funding Period, and Allocation:
ESSER II is one of two main funding sources, the other being GEER II, of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA). While CRRSSA was enacted on December 27, 2020, to provide a second round of federal relief in response to COVID-19, the period of availability start date for ESSER II is the same as ESSER I, going back to March 13, 2020. The period of Availability End Date, which includes the tydings amendment period, for ESSER II, is September 30, 2023.
The total amount of ESSER II funds awarded to Nevada was $477,322,438. Ninety percent ($429,590,194) of Nevada’s ESSER II funds were allocated to LEAs in the same way as ESSER I, based on the proportion of Title I, Part A funds each LEA received in the most recent fiscal year at the time (2020-21).
Domestic Preferences for Procurement:
Although the Buy American Act does not apply to the ESSER grants, awards made under the CRRSA Act are subject to 2 CFR § 200.322 (Domestic Preferences for Procurement), a new regulation that applies to Federal grants made after November 12, 2020. It establishes domestic preferences for procurements under Federal grants that are subject to the Uniform Guidance. Please see 2 CFR § 200.322 for more information.
LEAs are not required to provide equitable services under ESSER II. A separate program, the Emergency Assistance to Non-public Schools (EANS) is included as a separate program under the CRRSA Act.
Supplement and not Supplant:
ESSER II funds are not subject to a supplement-not-supplant requirement. However, the use of ESSER II funds does not override the supplement-not-supplant requirements of other programs. Replacing State or local funds with ESSER funds may result in compliance findings.
Allowable Uses of Funds:
In addition to including all of the allowable uses from ESSER I, ESSER II introduced three new uses:
Addressing learning loss among students, including low-income students, children with disabilities, English learners, racial and ethnic minorities, students experiencing homelessness, and children and youth in foster care, of the local educational agency, including by—
Administering and using high-quality assessments that are valid and reliable, to accurately assess students’ academic progress and assist educators in meeting students’ academic needs, including through differentiating instruction;
Implementing evidence-based activities to meet the comprehensive needs of students;
Providing information and assistance to parents and families on how they can effectively support students, including in a distance learning environment; and
Tracking student attendance and improving student engagement in distance education.
Making school facility repairs and improvements to enable operation of schools to reduce risk of virus transmission and exposure to environmental health hazards, and to support student health needs.
Inspecting, testing, repairing, and other projects to improve the indoor air quality in school facilities, including mechanical and non-mechanical heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, filtering, purification and other air cleaning, fans, control systems, and window and door repair and replacement.
For a detailed text description of the allowable uses of funds for ESSER II, please see Section 313(d) of CRRSA (starting on page 749).
As we enter 2023, I am happy to report that we have spent down 67% of our ESSER II funding. Now with ESSER I behind us, the hope is that we can dedicate more of our attention and efforts to ensuring that we are able to spend down all of our remaining ESSER II funding. Please know that the NDE ESSER Core Team is here for you as you continue to navigate through the final 2/3 of the ESSER grant and we are looking forward to a strong finish through the rest of this journey together.