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Capital Expenditures FAQs

FAQs for federal stimulus funding capital expenditures, including the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) I, II, and III Funds and the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) I and II Funds.
  1. What federal funding sources require local educational agencies (LEAs) to obtain California Department of Education (CDE) approval for capital expenditures? (Updated 09-Jul-2021)

    ESSER and GEER funds require prior approval for the single big-ticket purchases of $5,000 or more (as do federal funds generally).

    LEAs are not required to get preapproval for purchases using the Coronavirus Relief Fund or General Fund dollars. To clarify, when referring to the General Fund dollars, this is the funding source that an LEA was allocated through the Learning Loss Mitigation Funding (LLMF) package established in Section 110 of SB 98 (Chapter 24, Statutes of 2020), as amended by Section 59 of SB 820 (Chapter 110, Statutes of 2020), and as amended by Section 4 of AB 86 (Chapter 10, Statutes of 2021).

    To obtain approval, an LEA must fill out the Capital Expenditures Pre-Approval Application Form (PDF) and then send the completed form to EDReliefFunds@cde.ca.gov.

    NOTE: Any approved expenditure is only for the funding source that is approved by CDE. For example, if an LEA receives approval for an expenditure using ESSER I funds and then later wants to use ESSER II funds for that expenditure, a new application must be submitted.

  1. What types of projects require prior approval from the CDE?

    This is required for any single big-ticket purchases at the cost of $5,000 or more using the funding sources cited above. These purchases can include general purpose equipment, buildings, and land, including material improvements. This means one costly item (or several items which make up one unit) and the cost includes all the ancillary expenses such as design costs, new electrical circuit for the item, and other related fees.

    To obtain approval, an LEA must fill out the Capital Expenditures Pre-Approval Application Form (PDF) and then send the completed form to EDReliefFunds@cde.ca.gov.

  1. Are shade structures allowable as a Capital Expenditure for ESSER/GEER?

    Yes, you must show the cost is reasonable and necessary. An LEA must describe how the items acquired will support/enhance the educational program.

  1. Can school buses or vehicles be purchased for student transportation under ESSER/GEER?

    Yes, you must show it was necessary, reasonable, and allocable. You must also ensure that you have also looked into less expensive options such as leasing, contracted services, or other alternatives that are more reasonable. An LEA must explain how this will support/enhance the educational program.

    Requests for staff cars for district office use or new maintenance vehicles should explain how these expenditures will benefit students and school site staff.

    If an LEA purchases a vehicle (for staff or students) with ESSER/GEER funds, it will be required to have disposition documentation at the end of the grant.

  1. Are construction costs allowed under ESSER/GEER?

    Yes, ESSER and GEER funds are authorized for construction as long as it is needed to prevent, prepare for and respond to COVID-19. Additionally, related construction costs resulting from an eligible project, including all California Building Standards Code compliance, such as structural, fire & life safety, access compliance and energy code compliance are an allowable use of ESSER/GEER funds.

  1. What types of construction projects could possibly be allowed?

    The type of projects that could possibly be allowed are school facility repairs and improvements to enable operation of schools to reduce the risk of virus transmission and exposure to environmental health hazards and provide for the health needs of students.

    This could include the inspection, testing, maintenance, repair, replacement, and upgrades for indoor air quality improvement.

    Possible projects that may be allowed are:

    • Construction of additional classrooms, purchasing, or leasing portable classrooms to assist with social distancing;
    • Replacing windows for increased air quality;
    • Replacing carpet with tile or similar flooring material for cleaning purposes;
    • Replacing or fixing roof for air quality;
    • Updating facilities to utilize for additional classroom space;
    • Construction of areas for health purposes (e.g. waiting areas for sick students or testing areas).
  1. What requirements must be followed for construction projects?

    For construction projects, LEAs must follow applicable federal construction regulations, such as safety and health standards (34 Code of Federal Regulations [CFR] 75.609), energy conservation (34 CFR 75.616), and Davis-Bacon prevailing wage rules. Any LEA requesting preapproval must provide documentation showing that the LEA is not able to meet the need arising from the health emergency in a more cost-effective or efficient manner, such as leasing property or improving property already owned and in use.

    Additionally, the placement of new modular classrooms, other new construction and many modernization projects on a school site is subject to the requirements of Title 5 CCR Section 14030, and oversight by the Division of the State Architect (DSA). For information about DSA assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic for emergency school facilities, LEAs should refer to BU 20-01 External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF). New relocatable buildings and structures, including shade structures, may be temporarily installed for a maximum period up to three years in accordance with IR A-1.16 External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF). Reconstruction or alteration projects to school buildings less than specified construction cost thresholds are exempt from DSA review, as described in IR A-22 External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF).

    The project must also be tied to the allowable uses and COVID-19 (preventing, preparing for, and responding to COVID-19). Additionally, an LEA will have to show that the cost is reasonable and necessary and that cheaper alternatives were evaluated. The project must also be tied to the allowable uses and COVID-19 (preventing, preparing for, and responding to COVID-19). Additionally, an LEA will have to show that the cost is reasonable and necessary and that cheaper alternatives were evaluated.

    Important: The project must also follow federal procurement requirements and be implemented during the grant period of the funding source that is being used.

  1. Can the CDE provide approval for a purchase that has already been made by an LEA?

    Given the authorization to go back to March 13, 2020, there is some flexibility with the approval. If you plan on using ESSER or GEER funds for a purchase that has already been made, the purchase must have been made during the grant period (e.g ESSER I March 13, 2020 – September 30, 2022) and ensure that you have met all federal requirements in regards to the bidding process, compliance with construction regulations, and that you are able to show the purchase is necessary, reasonable, and allocable in response to COVID-19.

  1. Can an LEA use ESSER/GEER funds to replace or install a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system?

    Most likely this would be allowed as long as the LEA can demonstrate in its preapproval application that the purchase is reasonable and necessary in order to prevent, prepare for, and/or to respond COVID-19. You must also meet federal requirements on procurement and likely will have to comply with Division of the State Architect (DSA) requirements.

  2. Do construction projects funded under ESSER/GEER require CDE or Division of the State Architect (DSA) plan approval for the architectural plans?

    If the funding source of the construction project does not include state reimbursement through the School Facility Program (i.e. Proposition 51), then CDE plan approval is not required. However, the LEA must ensure the project meets Title 5 Regulations.

    The DSA has issued an updated Bulletin 20.01 DSA ASSISTANCE DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC FOR EMERGENCY SCHOOL FACILITIES External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF). The information in this bulletin offers guidance on prioritization, indicates plan approval requirements for specific project types related to school re-opening, and encourages outreach to the local DSA Regional Office. Not all HVAC projects require review; however, when structural alterations or improvements are needed, then DSA structural review is required and access compliance path of travel improvements are triggered.

    LEAs should contact DSA External link opens in new window or tab. for more information.

  3. Can ESSER and GEER funds provided under the Expanded Learning Opportunity Grant be used for Capital Expenditures?

    Yes, an LEA who receives the Expanded Learning Opportunity Grant (ELO-G) funding may use this funding for Capital Expenditures. LEAs will be required to submit a Capital Expenditures Pre-Approval Application Form to EDReliefFunds@cde.ca.gov for any funding that uses the following federal funds under the ELO-G:

    • ESSER II State Educational Agency (SEA) Reserve (Resource Code 3216)
    • GEER II (Resource Code 3217)
    • ESSER III SEA Reserve – Emergency Needs (Resource Code 3218)
    • ESSER III SEA Reserve – Learning Loss (Resource Code 3219)

    The purchase must be allowable under both federal and state requirements under the ELO-G program. For more information on the allowable uses of the ELO-G please refer to the Expanded Learning Opportunities Grants page or you may contact the ELO Grants Team via email at ELOGrants@cde.ca.gov.

    Note: If an LEA is using state funds and not using any federal funds for a purchase, then a capital expenditure pre-approval is not required. However, the purchase must still be aligned with applicable state allowable uses and law.

Questions:   Federal Stimulus Team | EDReliefFunds@cde.ca.gov
Last Reviewed: Tuesday, November 9, 2021
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