Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Funds

The federal government has provided multiple rounds of federal funds, known as Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Funds, to address the impact that COVID-19 has had, and continues to have, on elementary and secondary schools. CPS has received $12.6 million in funds over three grants, which must address three areas of focus: operations academics, and social-emotional learning.
esser chart

Recognizing that these funds represent one-time investments that must be used strategically and thoughtfully, CPS established the following criteria for the use of the ESSER Funds: 1) expenditures must support at least one Recover & Thrive objective, 2) expenditures must supports either one-time investments or pilot investments that will inform future efforts to avoid funding cliff in future years, 3) expenditures should prioritize quality implementation for high-leverage implementation OVER quantity of initiatives, and 4) expenditures should be informed by data and evidence to determine design, focus, and targeted population.

Across all three grants, CPS has used funds for a variety of purposes in the three areas of required focus, including:

  • COVID/Operations: tents, PPE, testing and medical supplies, health aides, HVAC improvements
  • Academics:
    • Supporting the return to in-person learning (Reopening planning stipends; Family listening conferences)
    • Tools and resources to understand and target students individual learning needs (Elementary interventionists and paraprofessionals; iReady screeners in math and literacy; PAPER online tutoring)
    • Programming and support for high school student success (Calculus Project, BAM/WOW, special educators to support honors/AP students; early college program manager, work-based learning support)
    • Expanded summer programming and support
    • District plan initiatives (Universal Pre-K Manager; pathways audits, schedule reviews)
  • SEL and Mental Health
    • Enhanced leadership and staffing (Director, SEL; CRLS Social Worker)
    • Elementary health teachers to lead coordinated school health teams
    • DESSA-min SEL screener
    • Gaggle telehealth services

Beginning with the current year (FY23) budget, planning for ESSER funds was included in the comprehensive budget planning process to ensure resources are used for coherent, sustained, impactful results. We look forward to the forthcoming FY24 budget process, where we again incorporate available ESSER funds into our planning.

See the details on grant requirements, timelines, and budgeted use of funds for each grant below

  • ESSER I Fund ($1.1 million)
  • ESSER II Fund ($3.5 million)
  • ESSER III Fund ($8 million)


ESSER I ($1.1 million)
The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief I (ESSER I) Fund, authorized under section 18003 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), provides districts with emergency relief funds to address the impact that COVID-19 has had, and continues to have, on elementary and secondary schools.1
  • Timeline: Funding can be used for FY20 allowable costs dating back to March 13, 2020, and for allowable costs through September 30, 2022.
  • Requirement: must provide equitable services to students and teachers in non-public schools as required under the CARES Act.
  • CPS Focus: Strategic summer investments and fall 2021 planning.
Summary of expenditures:
esser 1 table
December 2022 update: ESSER I has been fully expended.

ESSER II Fund ($3.5 million)
The CARES Act and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act provide resources to school districts to address the impact COVID-19 has had, and continues to have, on elementary and secondary schools. The ESSER II Fund, is intended to help school districts safely reopen schools, and measure and effectively address significant learning loss.1
  • Timeline: ESSER II funds need to be spent before September 30, 2023.
  • Requirement: Must direct at least $10,000 to leverage integrated coordination of school and community-based resources to provide student mental health services and supports.
  • CPS Focus: Support differentiated instruction & support in Fall 2021.
Budget summary:
esser 2 table
December 2022 update: ESSER II funds will be expended by June 2023 as described above.

ESSER III ($8 million)
The American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act of 2021 was enacted on March 11, 2021 and provides additional funding for school districts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Education portion of ARP is known as the ESSER III or ARP ESSER Fund. The purpose of the ESSER III fund is to support the safe reopening and sustaining safe operations of schools while meeting students' academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.1
  • Timeline: ESSER III funds need to be spent before September 30, 2024.
  • Requirement: At least 20% to address learning loss & disproportionate impact on underrepresented student populations.
  • Required Stakeholder Engagement: CPS has a comprehensive stakeholder engagement plan underway as part of its process to develop a holistic FY23 budget that considers both the General Fund and ESSER funds.
  • CPS Focus: Supplement CPS budget to support short-term COVID-19 operational needs in FY22 and long-term improvements in student outcomes in FY23 and beyond.
  • CPS Phased Planning: In FY 22, ESSER III will only be spent on COVID- related operational costs. The plan to use ESSER III funds for academic and social-emotional learning support was developed as part of a comprehensive, data-driven FY23 budget process considering all funds to ensure the fund will be used for coherent, sustained, impactful results. Similarly, funds have been set aside to include as part of the FY24 budget development process for Summer 2023 and SY23-24.
Budget summary:
esser 3 table

(1) Source: https://www.doe.mass.edu/federalgrants/esser/default.html

Reopening Plan:

For more information see:
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