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​May 13, 2020

Dear Chief School Administrator:

The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) has approved Pennsylvania’s application to receive its share of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER Fund) authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).

Beginning today, Wednesday, May 13, school districts and charter schools may begin applying for ESSER funds via eGrants. The process will involve a streamlined application and prompt action by PDE to move complete applications through the federally required approval process. Additional resources will soon be available on PDE’s CARES Act webpage.  

As with all federal funds, payments will be disbursed on a monthly schedule; however, because ESSER is retroactive to March 13, the initial payment may be larger and reflect monthly allocations between March 13 and the date of your application approval. PDE estimates that school districts and charter schools will begin to receive funds in June.

When planning for local use, remember that CARES Act funding is one-time, emergency aid. Accordingly, consider how this funding interacts with your other federal funding, and the role of enhanced funding flexibilities, to ensure strategic and sustainable use. And while the pandemic has had tremendous consequences for all Pennsylvanians, I urge you to keep equity in the forefront of your 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.

Finally, while these funds represent a critical resource for schools to respond to challenges triggered by COVID-19, they represent only a fraction of the resources provided by the federal government in response to the Great Recession over a decade ago. I encourage you to join me in calling on our Congressional delegation to take additional action and approve further investment in education recovery. As leaders in your communities with firsthand experience in leading through this crisis, your perspective is invaluable.

Thank you for all you continue to do to serve our students and communities through these unprecedented times.

-Pedro