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ESSER II Funds: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA Act) was enacted December 27, 2020 and includes $53.4 billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER II Fund). ESSER II funds support COVID-19 response efforts and may be spent on a wide range of allowable activities.

ESSER II Fund awards were awarded to states based on the proportion of funding each state received under Title I, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended, in fiscal year 2020. Pennsylvania’s ESSER II allocation (PDF) is approximately $2.22 billion.

Pursuant to Sec. 313 of the CRRSA Act, the Pennsylvania Department of Education will grant ESSER II Fund awards to school districts and charter schools based on their proportionate share of the Title I-A (FY 2020) formula.

Access a list of school districts and charter schools and their ESSER II Preliminary Allocations (January 15, 2021).

Below are answers to frequently asked questions related to the ESSER II Fund and how to apply for funding.

Why are the January 15 allocations called “preliminary allocations”?

The CRRSA Act requires ESSER II funds to be allocated to eligible school districts and charter schools based upon 2020-2021 Title I-A allocations.

PDE’s Division of Federal Programs calculates preliminary Title I-A allocations each spring, prior to the start of the next school year, to allow recipients to plan for applications and programming. Final allocations are then published in February of each year when charter school enrollment data for the previous school year is finalized.

This same finalization cycle will apply to ESSER II. Therefore, allocations published on January 15 are preliminary estimates. School districts and charter schools are advised to budget knowing these allocations are likely to change.

What schools are eligible for ESSER II funding?

Eligible recipients include school districts and charter schools. School districts and charter schools that did not receive Title I, Part A funding, either because of ineligibility or a decision to decline funding, will not receive a grant.

When and how do school districts and charter schools apply for ESSER II funds?

School districts and charter schools apply for funding by submitting a streamlined application to PDE in the eGrants system, using existing credentials.

The ESSER II grant application is open in eGrants as of Friday, January 15, 2021.

How can school districts and charter schools use ESSER II funds?

Allowable uses include all possible expenditures under ESSER I, plus three additional uses:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

In planning for ESSER II, school districts and charter schools should treat the funds as non-recurring, emergency aid. As such, recipients should consider how ESSER II funds might interact with other federal funding and the role of enhanced funding flexibilities (PDF) to ensure strategic and sustainable use. And while the pandemic has had tremendous consequences for all Pennsylvanians, PDE urges recipients to keep equity in the forefront of planning by prioritizing investments for vulnerable students and families, including those living in the deepest poverty, students with disabilities, English learners, migrant students, students experiencing homelessness, and children in foster care.

What is the period of allowability for ESSER II funds?

Funds may be applied to costs dating back to the onset of the national emergency (March 13, 2020) and are available for obligation by school entities through September 30, 2023.

How will PDE disburse ESSER II funds?

ESSER II funds will be paid monthly beginning the fourth Thursday of the month after the grant was fully executed for the applying school district or charter school.

Since ESSER II funds are administered to school districts and charter schools using the Title I-A formula, does that mean Title I-A regulations apply?

Although ESSER II funds are distributed to school districts and charter schools based on Title I-A allocations, these are not Title I-A funds; rather, ESSER II is its own, separate program. Accordingly, ESSER II funds must be awarded and tracked separately from Title I-A funds. ESSER II funds also must be tracked separately from ESSER I funds.

ESSER II funds do not include a supplement, not supplant requirement and are not subject to ranking and serving provisions that define how a recipient distributes funds to schools.

Will there be reporting requirements for school districts and charters schools on ESSER II funds?

Recipients will be required to report on program implementation on a quarterly basis, with a final report due at the close of the ESSER II grant period. Quarterly and final program reporting will take place via eGrants and the Future Ready Comp Plan Portal (FRCPP). Additionally, recipients will complete regular quarterly fiscal reporting to continue monthly payments through FAI.  

Although reporting for ESSER I and ESSER II funds will look similar, ESSER I and ESSER II are different grant awards. As such, ESSER II funds must be tracked and reported separately from ESSER I funds.

Should school districts and charter schools anticipate monitoring or auditing of ESSER II funds?

Yes. PDE will monitor the use of ESSER II funds. In addition, ESSER II funds are subject to Single Audit Act requirements.

Do ESSER II funds include an equitable shares requirement?

Unlike ESSER I, recipients of ESSER II funds are not required to reserve a portion of funding for local nonpublic school services. The CRRSA Act includes a separate program of Emergency Assistance for Non-Public Schools for which eligible non-public schools may apply to receive services or assistance.

Who can I contact for more information?

School districts and charter schools may contact their regiona​l coordinator in the PDE Division of Federal Programs with questions related to ESSER funding and for application assistance.