ESSER/GEER Extra, Volume 3
Welcome back! This week’s volume of ESSER/GEER Extra highlights the following topics: which school entities are eligible to apply for the 2.5% ARP ESSER set-aside funds; what to expect in terms of ESSER reporting; the process for amending an ESSER application; purchasing from COSTARS using ESSER funds; and reminders on Health and Safety Plan due dates and the availability of ARP Homeless Children and Youth funds.
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Which school entities are eligible for a share of the 2.5% ARP ESSER set-aside funds, and how do they apply for the funding?
Act 24 of 2021 appropriated $135 million in ARP ESSER set-aside funds for Intermediate Units (IUs), Career and Technical Education Centers (CTCs), Private Residential Rehabilitative Institutions (PRRIs), Approved Private Schools (APSs), schools designated for Additional Targeted Support and Improvement (A-TSI), Chartered Schools for the Deaf and Blind, and entities providing services for youth in local correctional institutions and community day programs. Access the allocations for each individual entity as codified in Act 24.
The applications, which are specific to each entity listed above, were made available earlier this week via eGrants. There is no deadline for entities to apply for their allocation. Funds are available for use from March 13, 2020, through September 30, 2024, and for the allowable uses articulated in section 2001(e)(2) of the ARP Act.
What are the reporting requirements for ESSER expenditures?
The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) has yet to define the final ESSER fund reporting requirements; however, they have released a proposed ESSER information collection request (ICR) that outlines the information they are considering collecting from states and LEAs on ESSER I, ESSER II, and ARP ESSER expenditures and impacts.
The proposed ICR, along with the proposed template for collection, is massive in scope and includes many data elements not currently reported. USDE is accepting public comment on the proposal through August 31, 2021.
PDE, along with state education agencies across the country, will submit public comments to USDE expressing concerns about the proposed information collection. These concerns include the burden to LEAs in reporting the volume of data proposed, the difficulty in obtaining information for many data elements that are not currently collected or reported, the granularity of some of the data requests, and the lack of clarity regarding the use of the proposed data to be reported.
Until we know the final information collection requirements for ESSER funds, please ensure that you are tracking your federal COVID-relief funds separately (i.e., ESSER I, ESSER II, ARP ESSER, etc.), as expenditures and other data will need to be submitted specific to each individual allocation. Additionally, be sure to document processes and expenditures related to these federal funds, and stay tuned for more information as reporting requirements and timelines are finalized this fall.
Can I change my ESSER application after it has been approved?
Yes, LEAs may amend any of their ESSER applications any time prior to the grant being fully paid or closed. If the application is pending approval, the application can be amended in eGrants. If the application has been approved and processed into the Financial Accounting Information (FAI) system, the LEA must email its regional coordinator and seek approval of the proposed changes in writing. Please keep all approved changes on file for monitoring/audit purposes.
Can my LEA use federal ESSER funds to purchase directly from COSTARS?
An entity receiving federal ESSER or GEER funds must follow proper procurement standards in accordance with 2 CFR 200.318-200.326. According to federal regulations, a purchase directly from COSTARS, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s cooperative purchasing program, without doing competitive procurement, does not meet all the required federal procurement standards. When using federal funds, an entity may not purchase directly off of COSTARS and must conduct competitive procurement in accordance with 2 CFR 200.318-200.326. COSTARS can be used as one source of pricing during the competitive procurement process, provided all other procurement requirements are met. When expending federal funds, LEAs should consult with their solicitors to ensure they are in compliance with Uniform Guidance requirements.
REMINDER: Health and Safety Plans are due!
A school entity planning to receive part of the 2.5% ARP ESSER set-aside and that have not previously filed a Health and Safety Plan with PDE for 2021-22 must: 1) develop a Health and Safety plan, 2) secure approval of the plan from its governing body, and 3) post the approved plan on its publicly available website by August 30, 2021, or prior to the start of the 2021-22 school year—whichever is earlier. In addition, a copy of the Plan must be uploaded into the school entity’s eGrants application, along with a link to the webpage where it is posted on the school entity’s website. Plan requirements, resources, and a sample plan template for developing or revising existing Health and Safety Plans are accessible on PDE’s website.
REMINDER: ARP Homeless Children and Youth funds available soon!
PDE will release more than $32 million in federal ARP Act funds for the purposes of identifying homeless children and youth, providing wraparound services due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and creating activities that will provide access to PA homeless children and youth to participate fully in in-person instruction and extracurricular activities.
PDE will allocate 25% of this funding (referred to as ARP-HCY I) to its eight McKinney-Vento-funded regional offices, and the remaining 75% (referred to as ARP-HCY II) via a formula based on an LEA’s allocation under Title I Part A of the ESEA and the number of identified homeless children and youth served during the 2018-19 school year.
Specific allocations for each LEA and applications for these funds will be posted on PDE’s Homeless Education webpage in the coming weeks. Watch for notifications from PDE’s Office of the State Coordinator for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth.
Highlights, Inspiration, and What We Learned
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Coming up in the next edition…
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