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Written by Susan Gentz
on December 28, 2020

The House and Senate both passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, a $2.3 trillion package that is essentially two bills. One is a $900 billion stimulus for coronavirus relief, and the other is a $1.4 trillion omnibus funding bill to ensure no government shutdown until next year. Both of these bills provide funding resources and need-to-know information for education.

Stimulus Funds
Of the $900 billion stimulus bill, K-12 education will receive roughly $57 billion. The funds will be distributed largely in the same way as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was passed in March 2020. The majority of this fund ($54.3 billion) will be for public schools. The funds will again go to the Education Stabilization Fund (ESF), and state education agencies (SEAs) must distribute 90% of funds to local education agencies (LEAs). The legislation provides that districts may use the funds to address learning loss, improve school facilities and infrastructure to reduce the risk of transmitting the coronavirus, and purchase education technology. This funding is available for spending through September 2022.

The newly passed legislation also provides $4.1 billion for the Governors Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund. This fund is available for governors to direct to either K-12 or higher education entities based on the needs they see in the state. There is one difference in this GEER fund where there is a set-aside for private schools ($2.75 billion). These schools must agree not to apply for funds from the Payment Protection Program. This fund will also operate similarly to the GEER fund found in the CARES Act.

Although the stimulus bill fails to appropriate any funds to the E-Rate program, the stimulus does include $7 billion for connectivity. According to The Verge, “Congress’ latest relief measure provides $7 billion in funding for broadband connectivity and infrastructure. That figure includes $3.2 billion for a $50-per-month emergency broadband benefit for people who are laid off or furloughed during the pandemic, according to a press release from Sen. Ron Wyden’s (D-OR) office on Sunday.” Advocates will be working hard to get E-Rate funds included in the next round of funding under the incoming Biden administration.

There is a lens of these funds working to help schools reopen safely and go back in person; however, as discussed in previous negotiations, the idea of only getting funds if a school goes back in person full-time did not make this round of funding. Every district is still eligible for these funds, regardless of what their learning model currently looks like.

2021 Appropriations
Along with the ESF and GEER fund, Congress authorized appropriations for the next fiscal year. Education funding will see an increase of $785 million above the 2020 level, bringing total discretionary funding to $73.5 billion.

Overall, the bill provides $40.6 billion for K-12 education programs, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, an increase of $498 million above the 2020 enacted level. Of this amount, the bill includes:

  • $16.5 billion for Title I Grants to Local Educational Agencies, an increase of $227 million above the 2020 enacted level
  • $2.1 billion for Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants (Title II-A), an increase of $11.3 million over the 2020 enacted level
  • $1.2 billion for Student Support and Academic Enrichment State Grants (Title IV-A), an increase of $10 million above the 2020 enacted level
  • $107 million for Education for Homeless Children and Youth, an increase of $5 million above the 2020 enacted level

Additional support for the social and emotional learning (SEL) initiative created in the fiscal year, including:

  • $67 million within the Education Innovation and Research program, an increase of $2 million above the 2020 enacted level, for grants to support evidence-based, field-initiated innovations that address students' social, emotional, and cognitive needs as well as expand opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), including computer science
  • $30 million for Full-Service Community Schools, an increase of $5 million over the 2020 enacted level, to provide comprehensive services and expand evidence-based models that meet the holistic needs of children, families, and communities
  • $106 million for the School-Based Mental Health Services Grant Program, an increase of $1 million over the 2020 enacted level

What’s Next?
Many insiders predict this is another “bridge” payment and are now hopeful for more help once Biden takes office in January. It took Congress several months to come to an agreement, and with the Senate likely staying Republican-controlled, it’s hard to say when another round of relief might come.

Want to hear more about this topic? I recently joined Paget Hetherington, Gaggle’s VP of Marketing, to dive further into these new funding streams on It Takes a Village: A Gaggle PodcastI’ll also be sharing details and tips during Gaggle’s upcoming How to Access Stimulus Funds in Your District webinar. Register today to join us on January 13 at 1:30 PM ET for this informative event!

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