The American Rescue Plan Q&A

A Q&A with NAESP’s advocacy team on the American Rescue Plan and its impacts on schools.

Topics: Advocacy and Legislation, Pandemic Leadership

On March 11, 2021, President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan (ARP) into law. The funding package provides a significant boost in direct K-12 funding to help schools reopen, stay open, and recover from the pandemic. Below, NAESP’s advocacy team responds to 15 questions about ARP and how it can help schools respond to and recover from the pandemic.

How much education funding does ARP provide?

ARP provides $122 billion in direct funding for K-12 schools—an unprecedented federal investment in education. For scale, districts annually receive around $16 billion in Title I funds.

How much total federal funding for K-12 schools has been provided since the pandemic began?

In March 2020, Congress passed the CARES Act, which provided $13 billion to K-12. In December 2020, Congress passed the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act, which included an additional $54 billion for K-12. With the $122 billion in ARP, federal K-12 coronavirus response funding now totals more than $190 billion since the pandemic began.

A side-by-side comparison of the three bills can be found on page 4 of this U.S. Department of Education fact sheet.

How will ARP funds be allocated?

ARP will flow to states and districts via Title I formula, which mirrors how CARES and CRRSA funds were distributed. State education agencies must distribute at least 90 percent of these funds directly to districts. It’s important to note, however, that although these funds are being distributed via Title I formula, they aren’t Title I dollars­—they are much more flexible.

How much will my state receive?

State allocations can be found here. States will receive around 10 times the portion they received under the CARES Act and around 2.25 times what they received under CRRSA.

How much will my district receive?

You can view district estimates here.

What is the timeline for spending ARP funds?

State education agencies and districts can spend ARP funds through Sept. 30, 2024. For comparison, CRRSA funds must be spent by Sept. 30, 2023, and CARES funds must be spent by Sept. 30, 2022.

What are the allowable uses of ARP funding?

In short, almost anything. ARP funds give district and school leaders enormous flexibility to address the many impacts of COVID-19 on K-12 students. Allowable uses of ARP funds:

  • Any activity under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Individuals with  Disabilities Education Act, Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, and the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act.
  • Investing in resources to support 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, including through evidence-based interventions and community schools.
  • Funding crucial 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.

 Are there state and district set-aside/reservation requirements under ARP?

Yes. State education agencies must subgrant at least 90 percent of ARP funds to LEAs; districts must reserve 20 percent of these funds to address learning loss. After subgranting the 90 percent to districts, state education agencies (SEAs) must set aside an additional 5 percent to address learning loss (~ $6.1 billion nationally), 1 percent for evidence-based afterschool programs (~$1.2 billion nationally), and 1 percent for evidence‐based summer enrichment programs (~$1.2 billion). This leaves SEAs with 2.5 percent (~$3.05 billion nationally for other state activities) and .5 percent (~$600 million for administration).

What about dedicated money for broadband and remote learning?

ARP includes a $7.2 billion increase to the E-Rate program, which will bolster schools’ ability to provide broadband and device access for disconnected students. Over the past year, NAESP has engaged heavily in advocacy efforts to boost the E-Rate program, but previous relief bills did not include dedicated funding for the E-Rate program. The $7.2 billion for the E-Rate in ARP represents a significant boost for the program, which is funded at $4 billion annually. NAESP is engaged with the Federal Communications Commission to ensure administrators receive the support and guidance necessary to navigate these and other remote learning funding opportunities.

Are there “maintenance of effort” requirements?

Yes. As with previous coronavirus relief bills, states must ensure funding for K-12 schools in fiscal years 2022 and 2023 is at least equal to the state’s overall spending in fiscal years 2017, 2018, and 2019.

Are there equity funding requirements?

ARP includes a new “maintenance of equity” provision, requiring any cuts to state funding in fiscal years 2022 and 2023 for “high-need” school districts be less than the overall reduction in state funding across all districts in the state, on a per-student basis. The provision also stipulates that “high-poverty” districts (defined as the 20 percent of districts in a state serving the most economically disadvantaged students) receive at least as much state funding in fiscal years 2022 and 2023 as in fiscal year 2019, on a per-student basis. Finally, districts cannot reduce combined state and local funding and or staffing for high-poverty districts by more than overall district-wide reductions. For this requirement, there are exemptions for districts enrolling fewer than 1,000 students, those that operate a single school, or those that serve all students in each grade span in a single school.

Does ARP include additional IDEA Funding?

Yes. ARP includes $2.5 billion for IDEA—a 20 percent increase over the current annual appropriation, bringing the federal share to 15.5 percent.

Is there funding for private schools?

Yes. Under the legislation, governors will also receive $2.75 billion in funding for the Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools Program to assist private schools. These funds will be allocated to states based on their proportional shares of children ages 5-17 from families with incomes at or below 185 percent of poverty. The funds would then be used by the SEA to provide services or assistance to non-public schools that “enroll a significant percentage of low-income students and are most impacted” by the coronavirus.

Does ARP support students experiencing homelessness?

Yes. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) authored a provision included in the legislation that provides $800 million to support the identification, enrollment, and school participation of children and youth experiencing homelessness, including through wrap-around services.

Is there anything else interesting in the bill that helps kids?

ARP includes a one year expansion of the child text credit (CTC), boosting the amount to $3,600 for children under the age of six and to $3,000 for children ages 6 to 17. Researchers at Columbia University have found the expansion of the CTC could reduce childhood poverty by one-half.

Other Updates

Educator Vaccinations – #SleeveUpForSchools

On March 2, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a directive that all states immediately make teachers, school staff, and childcare workers eligible for COVID-19 vaccination across all vaccination providers. Additionally, pharmacy locations that are part of CDC’s Federal Retail Pharmacy Program are now giving priority to school staff and childcare workers for COVID-19 vaccination during the month of March. The CDC is conducting a survey on educator vaccinations and would like to learn more from NAESP members.

$10 Billion for School-Based COVID Testing

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced $10 billion to ramp up screening testing to help schools reopen. See how much your state will receive here.

U.S. Department of Education School Reopening Summit

On March 24, the U.S. Department of Education held a school reopening summit, which featured experts, best-practices, and educators (including some NAESP members). You can view a recording of the summit here.