Michigan schools to receive $3.7B in new federal COVID-19 relief funding

By Allison Donahue, Michigan Advance

Michigan K-12 schools will receive more than $3.7 billion in federal funding through the American Rescue Plan signed by President Joe Biden last week. 

The U.S. Department of Education announced Wednesday the $122 billion in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding that will go to states “to support their efforts to reopen K-12 schools safely this month and equitably expand opportunity for students who need it most.” 

“This pandemic has taken an extraordinary toll on students, parents, educators, and schools, and we know that our schools, students, and communities need help now to reopen safely and quickly, and to stay open,” said Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “These funds from the American Rescue Plan and the extraordinary steps the Department is taking to get these resources to states quickly will allow schools to invest in mitigation strategies to get students back in the classroom and stay there, and address the many impacts this pandemic has had on students — especially those disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.”

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) got language included in the package that would require states to allocate the education funding within 60 days of funding. 

In Michigan, the GOP-led Legislature and Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer still have not reached an agreement on billions for education, health and other priorities from the last federal stimulus package former President Donald Trump signed in December. The Senate voted last week to authorize a lawsuit against Whitmer.

Whitmer signed about $2.5 billion of the Republican’s COVID-19 supplemental, while vetoing $840 million in K-12 funding that was tie-barred to a bill aimed at limiting the Department of Health and Human Services’ power to shut down schools during the pandemic. 

“It is with this same sense of urgency that State educational agencies (SEAs) and school districts should plan to expend these funds to safely reopen schools as expeditiously as possible this spring, sustain their healthy operations, and address the significant academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs of their students,” Cardona wrote in a letter to chief state school officers. 

The ESSER funding is to be used for:

  • Resources to implement CDC’s K-12 operational strategy for in-person learning to keep educators, staff and students safe, improving ventilation, purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE) and obtaining additional space to ensure social distancing in classrooms.
  • Avoiding layoffs and hiring additional educators to address learning loss, providing support to students and existing staff and providing sufficient staffing to facilitate social distancing.
  • Implementing strategies to meet the social, emotional, mental health and academic needs of students hit hardest by the pandemic.
  • Funding summer, afterschool and other extended learning and enrichment programs.
  • Hiring additional school personnel, such as nurses and custodial staff.
  • Providing for social distancing and safety protocols on buses.
  • Funding for Wi-Fi hotspots and devices for students without connectivity for remote learning and supporting educators in the effective use of technology.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ also announced that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will provide $10 billion to states to help fund COVID-19 testing for K-12 teachers, staff and students in schools.

The $1.9 trillion package includes $10.3 billion in total funding for Michigan, which will be divided up between state, counties and city governments. 

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