A Guide to ESSER Funding: How Covid-19 Relief Funds Can Help Schools

Over the last two years, Congress has passed a total of three stimulus bills providing over $190 billion dollars to the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund. This fund is one of many ways that schools are receiving help during the coronavirus pandemic. Here, we’ll break down ESSER funding and how Tallo can help your school recover from COVID-19.

What is the ESSER fund?

Most people have heard of the CARES Act. It was passed in 2020 and allocated roughly $13.5 billion dollars for emergency relief to be spent on elementary and secondary schools. This was only the first of three allotments. The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA) passed at the end of 2020 offered a second fund, ESSER II, totaling over $54 billion dollars. Then, a third fund ESSER III was created by the American Rescue Plan Act passed in 2021 which added nearly $123 billion more to the original ESSER fund. 

How do I use ESSER funding?

As to be expected, there are specific requirements for the ESSER I, II and III fund monies. In general, funding can be used on pre-award costs that dated all the way back to March 13, 2020 when Congress declared a national emergency. 

Every State Education Agency (SEA) in the 50 states—plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia—receives funds in the same proportion that they receive funds from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Title-I, Part A. From there, the SEAs then distribute a minimum of 90% to local education agencies in the same way funding is dictated by the ESEA Title-I, Part A. Every SEA can choose to save 10% of funds for emergency needs as related to the pandemic. 

While all three funds can be used for things like hiring new staff, avoiding layoffs and implementing strategies that address the public health crisis, there are some additional nuances that were added to the terms for ESSER II and ESSER III. These include:

  • Addressing learning loss
  • Facilitating remote learning
  • Prepping for reopening
  • Testing for reopening
  • Improving air quality in schools
  • Maintaining health and safety
  • Building new protocols to meet CDC guidance

The Department of Education will be monitoring the allocation of funds in different schools to ensure that they are spent correctly. 

For more information on the nuances of each fund, check out the ESSER I and II Fact Sheet and the ESSER III Fact Sheet

How do you build your ESSER plan?

School districts need to apply directly to your own state. The processes and timelines will be unique to your area, but in general, you’ll want to show that your plan serves the needs of your district. So you should include community input, district priorities, data analysis, funding strategies, and of course, a needs assessment and timeline. 

Is there a deadline to award ESSER funds?

SEAs are required to award ESSER subgrants to Local Education Agencies (LEAs) within a year of receiving the allocation. Any funds that aren’t allocated at that point will be returned to the Department of Education for use elsewhere. 

Can you spend ESSER funding with Tallo?

Yes. Tallo supports Title I, ESSER, Perkins, and Gear Up funding objectives by facilitating career exploration with award-winning and scientifically validated assessments, career exploration tools, and a state-of-the-art digital portfolio connection platform. 

With Tallo, students can better understand their passion and purpose to explore post-secondary, training, and career options developed from their personal goals and interests. Tallo is a comprehensive resource that benefits both students and educators. Students can expand their overall college and career knowledge, and educators can support their students socially and emotionally, help them develop career-related skills relevant to their interests, and guide students to career and educational opportunities. Through Tallo’s digital portfolio system, students can connect to scholarships and financial aid, opportunities for college admission, internships, apprenticeships, and more. Regardless of geographic location, socio-economic status, or background, Tallo helps students connect to resources and opportunities they need to succeed in their future. These equitable resources allow every student to access the tools they need to be successful in their future.

Tallo supports school and district programs and initiatives with comprehensive data analytics and reporting for overall populations and individual initiatives, like summer programs. Educators can use Tallo’s one-to-one in-app messaging to support current and alumni students through their professional journey effectively, in person, and virtually.


ESSER Fund Frequently Asked Questions

Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund Tracker


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