CARES Act ESSER and GEER funding: What’s in it for Schools?

CARES Act ESSER and GEER funding: What’s in it for Schools?

Many people have already received a check as part of the CARES Act. Now, Local Educational Agencies (LEA) will be applying for their relief funding. It comes in two forms: The Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund and the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency (ESSER) Funds.

Both are almost the same. In fact, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) is having LEAs submit a single CARES Act Combined Funding Application for both ESSER and GEER funding using the SED Monitoring and Vendor Reporting System. We have been told the application is fairly simple to complete. Even still, proper planning is essential as the deadline for submitting the application is August 15th. Per NYSED, extensions will be granted by request. Below is information on what the funding is for and who is eligible for funding.

Let’s start with the differences between the two funds since there aren’t many.

GEER funding is only available to LEAs eight or more teachers, but not including those LEAs that are charter schools or Special Act School Districts, and the funds can be used for the following:

  • Any activity authorized by the ESEA of 1965;
  • to provide child-care and early childhood education, social and emotional support, and the protection of education-related jobs;
  • to support the ability of LEAs to continue to provide educational services;
  • to support the ongoing functionality of the local educational agency; and
  • for technology infrastructure and professional development that will improve capacity to provide high quality, accessible, distance education, or remote learning.

ESSER funding is available to all LEAs, including charter schools and Special Act School Districts, and allowable funding is even broader in scope. For more information on allowable uses, check out NYSED’s CARES Act funding web page. This page also includes the total amount allocated to each LEA.

Now, let’s look at what applies to both types of funding.

Both funds have been allocated based on the LEA’s proportionate share of 2019/2020 Title I part A funding. This means if your LEA did not receive Title I Part A funding, it is not eligible for CARES Act funding. Per NYSED, there are two exceptions to this rule as it pertains to ESSER funding:1) If the LEA is a new charter school that did not exist in the 2019-2020 school year; or 2) if a charter school LEA that was previously established significantly expanded during the 19-20 school year and therefore its larger student population makes it eligible for Title I, Part A funds in the 2020-2021 school year.”

Non-public schools are not out of luck. While the funding is only eligible to school districts, charter schools, and Special Act School Districts; any LEA receiving funding is required to equitably share funds for services with in-district non-public schools. This is true even if the non-public school has not previously participated under Title I Part A or Title VIII of the ESEA. The LEA receiving CARES Act funding will need to submit a completed Written Affirmation of LEA Consultation with Private School Officials form, which is also included on the CARES Act funding web page.

The funds must be controlled and administered by a public agency, and no funds may go directly to a non-public school – even for reimbursement purposes. However, the public agency shall provide, or contract for the provision of, services, materials, equipment, and property to non-public schools.

The amount of funding that will be used for non-public schools depends on the allocation method the public agency uses. There are two options:

  • Proportional: This is based on the proportionate number of students enrolled in private schools in the district
  • Low-Income: There are two variations of this option. It can either be:
    • based on the total number of low-income students in Title I and participating in private schools, or
    • using the LEA’s Title I, Part A share from the 2019-2020 school year

The LEA does not have to use the same method for both GEER and ESSER funding (e.g. GEER can be allocated using the proportional method, while ESSER can be allocated using a low-income option). It is important to note that If the LEA uses one of the low-income options, the LEA cannot divert state or local funds from its Title I schools because it receives CARES Act funds (i.e. the supplement-not-supplant requirement).

In addition, both funds may be reserved for administrative costs after the equitable services share amount has been determined. Direct costs that are reasonable and necessary for the administration of the funds may be charged. However, NYSED notes that all salaries paid for with ESSER funds must be supported by time and effort documentation required by the Federal Uniform Grant Guidance (2 CFR 200.430).

Lastly, not only are both funds subject to the audit requirements under the Single Audit Act, but NYSED will be monitoring the use of both GEER and ESSER funds.

With just over $1.2 billion available to NY LEA’s ($164.2 million in GEER funds and $1.037 billion in ESSER funds) and an August 15th application deadline, make sure your LEA heads over to the SED Monitoring and Vendor Reporting System to fill out the application.

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Tom Weyer, CPA, MS

Tom Weyer, CPA, MS

Staff Accountant

Tom is a member of Cerini & Associates’ audit staff where he works with the firm’s nonprofit and school district clients. Tom has experience in claims and internal auditing, as well as internal controls testing and analysis. Tom’s knowledge and expertise allows him to assist in the evaluation of internal processes and risk assessment.