ESSER/GEER Extra, Volume 4
Welcome back to ESSER/GEER Extra. This week’s volume highlights the following topics: recapping the various ARP ESSER set-aside funds and highlighting upcoming guidance; the timeline for posting allocations for the remaining ARP ESSER set-aside funds; how to use ARP ESSER funds to mitigate transportation challenges; whether federal prevailing wage rates apply to ESSER-/GEER-funded projects; and a video introduction of your contacts in PDE’s Division of Federal Programs.
ARP ESSER Set-aside Recap
ARP ESSER is an umbrella term, encompassing five separate funds for LEAs. The biggest bucket, representing 90% of the overall fund, contains $4.5 billion for school districts and charter schools administered via the Title I-A formula; the application for these funds opened in eGrants in May 2021.
Additionally, Act 24 of 2021 further implements the other four separate buckets of ARP ESSER set-aside funds as outlined below.
2.5% Set-aside: $135 million is allocated to IUs; CTCs; APSs; PRRIs; Chartered Schools for the Deaf and Blind; A-TSI designated schools; and entities providing educational programs to delinquent, neglected, and at-risk youth. The application for these funds opened earlier this month in eGrants.
Learning Loss Set-aside: In addition to the $4.5 billion referenced above, $250 million is allocated to school districts and charter schools based on each entity’s share of Title I-A funding for 2020-21. The ARP Act requires this bucket of funds to be used for evidence-based interventions to address learning loss, and Act 24 imposed additional requirements on the use of these funds. At least 30% of a school district’s or charter school’s allocation must be used to provide social, emotional, or mental health supports to students; at least 10% must be used for professional development and technical assistance to educators and school staff to address the social, emotional, and mental health needs of students; and at least 8% must be used for reading support and improvement for students.
PDE will be issuing guidance to assist school districts and charter schools with using their share of the $250 million in ARP ESSER set-aside funds for learning loss. This guidance will provide information on the use of ARP ESSER funds to address social emotional learning (SEL) needs and will include an SEL Decision Tree Flowchart as a framework for planning. Guidance will also focus on reading improvement and will include a Reading Improvement and Acceleration Decision Tree Flowchart to assist in ARP ESSER planning.
Summer Enrichment Set-aside: Another $50 million is allocated to school districts and charter schools based on each entity’s share of Title I-A funding for 2020-21. The ARP Act requires this bucket of funds to be used for evidence-based summer enrichment programs.
Afterschool Program Set-aside: The final $50 million is allocated to school districts and charter schools based on each entity’s share of Title I-A funding for 2020-21. The ARP Act requires this bucket of funds to be used for evidence-based comprehensive afterschool programs.
A table that outlines the dollar amounts, allowable uses, and the timelines for each of the ARP ESSER set-asides is available on PDE’s website.
When will the allocations for ARP ESSER set-aside funds for learning loss, summer enrichment, and afterschool programs be available, and what is the deadline for submission of applications?
Act 24 of 2021 requires PDE to post the allocations for the ARP ESSER set-aside funds for learning loss ($250 million), summer enrichment ($50 million), and afterschool programs ($50 million) by August 30, 2021. Act 24 designates these ARP ESSER set-aside funds for school districts and charter schools and allocates each LEA’s share of funding based on its share of Title I-A funds. School districts and charter schools will be able to access their ARP ESSER set-aside applications in eGrants on September 2, 2021. Pursuant to Act 24, school districts and charter schools will have 90 days—until November 29, 2021—to submit a completed application to PDE.
Could an LEA facing a shortage of school bus drivers use ESSER funds to reimburse parents for transporting their students to and from school?
Under certain circumstances, federal ESSER funds may be used to provide a limited reimbursement directly to parents or guardians to safely transport their students to and from in-person schooling. This type of reimbursement program may be appropriate if an LEA is prioritizing in-person instruction for the 2021-22 school year and also is experiencing severe challenges hiring and retaining the school bus drivers necessary to accommodate the LEA’s mandated transportation needs. An expenditure of ESSER funds would be allowable where the LEA has developed a clear, objective methodology for the reimbursement that, in addition to other relevant factors, considers a student’s actual days of in-person attendance when determining the amount of transportation reimbursement to be provided; supports an equitable return to in-person schooling; and involves reasonable precautions to ensure that the reimbursement will be used only for transportation-related expenses. Contact your regional coordinator in the PDE Division of Federal Programs with questions regarding the use of ESSER funds for this purpose.
Are projects conducted with ESSER or GEER funds subject to the PA Prevailing Wage Act?
No; however, projects are subject to the payment of prevailing wage under the federal Davis-Bacon Act. While the PA Prevailing Wage Act (43 P.S, §§ 165-1 – 165-17) and accompanying state regulations (34 Pa. Code § 9.101(c)) would normally apply to a public body conducting a public work project, the Act states that it shall have no application to any public works subject to the federal Davis-Bacon Act (42 P.S. §165-15). The federal Davis-Bacon Act (40 U.S.C.A. §276(a)) does apply to relevant expenditures using ESSER or GEER funds, and it requires federal prevailing wage rates be paid for construction work on covered contracts that exceed $2,000.
Who do I contact in federal programs?
PDE federal program contacts can help answer your ARP ESSER questions, assist you with eGrants permissions, and help you navigate the complexities on all federal program fronts. To learn more about this team and find out who to contact in each region and for each specific area of focus, watch a brief video to familiarize yourself with the PDE federal program team.
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