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Accessing LEA ARP ESSER Funds

To access ARP ESSER funds, LEAs must consult with stakeholders to develop their plan; apply for funding using the eGrants system; develop, post, and regularly review/revise their ARP-required Health and Safety Plan; post data on school operating status; and publish a public LEA Plan for the Use of ARP ESSER Funds.

LEA Application for Funding  

Eligible entities will apply for ARP ESSER funds through the PDE eGrants system. Eligible school districts and charter schools are encouraged to apply by September 1, 2021. Please note that the LEA does not need to wait until ESSER I and ESSER II funds have been expended before applying for or obligating ARP ESSER funding.

The application includes the following sections:

  • Assessing Impacts and Needs
  • Engaging Stakeholders in Plan Development
  • Using ARP ESSER Funds to Plan for Safe, In-Person Instruction
  • Proposed Budget and Timeline
  • Monitoring and Measuring Progress
  • ARP ESSER Fund Assurances

PDE's Division of Federal Programs staff support the application process by providing technical assistance to LEAs, reviewing grant applications, and overseeing the payment process throughout grant implementation.

Consultation with Stakeholders

The ARP ESSER Interim Final Requirements (IFR) stipulate that LEAs must engage in meaningful consultation with stakeholders and give the public an opportunity to provide input in the development of the LEA Plan for the Use of ARP ESSER Funds. The past year, and the challenges of the next, make stakeholder engagement critical for a full and productive return to in-person learning and effective and equitable use of ARP ESSER funds.

Under ARP requirements, stakeholders include, but are not limited to, students, families, school and district administrators (including special education administrators), teachers, principals, school leaders, other educators, and school staff and their unions. In addition, the LEA must engage in meaningful consultation with each of the following to the extent present in or served by the LEA: 

  1. Tribes;
  2. Civil rights organizations (including disability rights organizations); and
  3. Stakeholders representing the interests of children with disabilities, English learners, children experiencing homelessness, children and youth in foster care, migratory students, children who are incarcerated, and other underserved students. 

How does stakeholder engagement work in the context of a pandemic and post-pandemic era?

While virtual learning and physical distancing pose significant barriers to social engagement, they also provide new opportunities to engage families and strengthen relationships between school and home. To make engaging with the LEA accessible for stakeholders, LEAs may offer opportunities that are both in-person and virtual, and asynchronous (on stakeholders' own time) and synchronous (at a variety of times of day to accommodate families' schedules). To make engagement accessible on the basis of language, LEAs should be mindful of breaking down jargon when communicating questions and proposing plans. For stakeholders with a primary language other than English, LEAs may conduct meetings or provide materials in English with translation provided into other languages. LEA staff may also co-facilitate meetings that take place in a language other than English, with interpretation provided for staff whose primary language is English.

LEAs might consider soliciting input from existing advisory groups, conducting interviews, holding conferences (in-person and/or virtual), and sending out surveys to gather input from families and students. LEAs might identify that no advisory group exists for a group of stakeholders who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. The process of developing the LEA Plan for the Use of ARP ESSER Funds presents an opportunity to establish relationships and seek insights on the assets, needs, and proposed solutions of community members whose voices are less often heard.

To gather input equitably, LEAs should try to meet stakeholders where they are. LEA staff might meet with families at school meal pickup locations, community centers, and houses of worship. LEA staff might engage in listening sessions with students in student-centered spaces, for example, as guests of existing student and community youth organization meetings. LEAs should plan for engaging with diverse stakeholders, and keep in mind that one stakeholder is not representative of a group, especially in light of how the pandemic has impacted each person in different ways and to a different extent.

For more suggestions for effective family and community engagement, see What Administrators Need to Know about Family Engagement and Framing Community Conversations. 

Plan for the Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services

Section 2001(i)(1) of the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act requires each LEA that receives ARP ESSER funds to develop and make publicly available on the LEA's website a Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan, hereinafter referred to as a Health and Safety Plan. Each LEA must create a Health and Safety Plan that addresses how it will maintain the health and safety of students, educators, and other school and LEA staff, and which will serve as the local guidelines for all instructional and non-instructional school activities during the period of the LEA's ARP ESSER grant.

An updated Health and Safety Plan must be posted to the LEA's public website and submitted to PDE by July 30, 2021, regardless of when the LEA submits its application for ARP ESSER funds.3 Each LEA will submit its updated Health and Safety plan and the URL to where the plan is located on the LEA website via eGrants.

The Health and Safety Plan required to receive ARP ESSER funds will be different than the plans submitted by LEAs for the 2019-2020 school year. Under the ARP Act and U.S. Education Department rules, Health and Safety Plans must include: (1) how the LEA will, to the greatest extent practicable, support prevention and mitigation policies in line with the most up-to-date guidance from the CDC for the reopening and operation of school facilities to effectively maintain the health and safety of students, educators, and other staff; (2) how the LEA will ensure continuity of services, including but not limited to, services to address students' academic needs, and students' and staff social, emotional, mental health, and other needs, which may include student health and food services; and (3) how the LEA will maintain the health and safety of students, educators, and other staff and the extent to which it has adopted policies, and a description of any such policy on each of the following safety recommendations established by the CDC: (a) universal and correct wearing of masks; (b) modifying facilities to allow for physical distancing (e.g., use of cohorts/podding); (c) handwashing and respiratory etiquette; (d) cleaning and maintaining healthy facilities, including improving ventilation; (e) contact tracing in combination with isolation and quarantine, in collaboration with the state and local health departments; (f) diagnostic and screening testing; (g) efforts to provide vaccinations to school communities; (h) appropriate accommodations for children with disabilities with respect to health and safety policies; and (i) coordination with state and local health officials.

Updating the Health and Safety Plan allows LEAs to incorporate lessons learned over the past year and develop plans for the safe return to in-person instruction and continuity of services within the LEA. As noted above, the public must have the opportunity to provide input in the development of the LEA's Health and Safety Plan.

The LEA's Health and Safety Plan must be approved by its governing body, posted on its publicly available website, and submitted to PDE by July 30, 2021. Plans must be posted online in a language that parents/caregivers can understand and available in an alternate translation or format when requested.

The ARP Act requires LEAs to review their Health and Safety Plans at least every six months during the period of the LEA's ARP ESSER grant. LEAs also must review and update their plans whenever there are significant changes to the CDC recommendations for K-12 schools. Like the development of the plan, all revisions must be informed by community input and reviewed and approved by the LEA's governing body prior to posting on the LEA's publicly available website.

Additional information, including a template that LEAs can use to update their Health and Safety Plans along with answers to frequently asked questions, is available on the PDE website.

LEA Plan for the Use of ARP ESSER Funds

The ARP Act requires that LEAs develop, approve, and make public an LEA Plan for the Use of ARP ESSER funds. Based on Pennsylvania's LEA application for ARP ESSER funds, LEAs will be able to satisfy the LEA Plan requirement through their eGrants submission, provided that the submission is tailored to the specific needs faced by students and schools within the LEA and reflects the insights of diverse stakeholders, particularly students and those most impacted by the pandemic, as to the most pressing needs and the most effective strategies for teaching, learning, and day-to-day school experiences.

Once an eGrants application is approved by PDE, LEAs may choose to utilize the content directly from the eGrants application for their LEA plan or make revisions to language and formatting for maximum utility by diverse stakeholders.

In either case, LEA Plans must be made publicly available on the LEA's website, be written in a language that parents can understand, and be provided in an alternate format upon request by a parent who is an individual with a disability.

How to Access Funds

Consistent with the administration of other federal funds, including ESSER I and II, PDE will reimburse allowable costs monthly through the Financial Accounting Information (FAI) system. Costs will be paid monthly beginning the fourth Thursday of each month after the grant is fully executed for the applying school district or charter school.

3Only school districts and charter schools that received federal Title I-A funds in FY 2020-2021 and that intend to apply for and receive ARP ESSER funding must develop, post, and submit a Health and Safety Plan and the associated URL to PDE by July 30, 2021. PDE will provide additional guidance in the event ARP ESSER funding is made available to other LEAs.