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The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provides funding to LEAs through Section 18003 of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund, to address the impact of COVID-19 on elementary and secondary schools.

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Congress set aside approximately $13.2 billion of the $30.75 billion allotted to the Education Stabilization Fund through the CARES Act for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund External link opens in new window or tab. . This funding will provide local educational agencies (LEAs) with emergency relief funds to address the impact that Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) has had, and continues to have, on elementary and secondary schools across the nation.

State awards for the ESSER Fund are in the same proportion as each state received under Title I, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended, in fiscal year 2019–20. Each state must use no less than 90 percent of its allocation ($1,482,575,514) to make subgrants to LEAs, based on each LEA’s share of funds received under Title I, Part A in fiscal year 2019–20.

Application for Funds

While eligible LEAs will need to apply to receive ESSER funding, the preliminary allocation amounts have been released (see below under "Funding"). Eligible LEAs must complete an application by July 15, 2020, in order to receive funds through the first apportionment, expected to go out starting September 2020. Eligible LEAs that do not apply by July 15, 2020 may apply after July 15 to receive funds through subsequent apportionments based on quarterly expenditure reporting.

The ESSER Fund application is available. Eligible LEAs must fill out the ESSER Fund Assurances in order to receive funding. Eligible LEAs received an email with their individual password.

ESSER Assurances

Additionally, the CDE has created a search application which will display the application submission status of educational entities for the ESSER Fund.

ESSER Search

Use of Funds

An LEA may use ESSER funds for any allowable expenditure incurred on or after March 13, 2020, the date the President declared the national emergency due to COVID-19. Federal cash management rules will apply to this funding.

LEAs can use ESSER funds for any activities authorized by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2000 (ESSA), Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, the Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) Act, or the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. Additional information about the allowable uses of funds can be found on the ESSER Fund Allowable Uses webpage.

In addition to these, LEAs can use funds for the following activities:

  • Coordination of preparedness and response efforts of LEAs with State, local, Tribal, and territorial public health departments, and other relevant agencies
  • Providing principals and others school leaders with the resources necessary to address the needs of their individual schools
  • Activities to address the unique needs of low-income children or students, children with disabilities, English learners, racial and ethnic minorities, students experiencing homelessness, and foster care youth, including how outreach and service delivery will meet the needs of each population
  • Developing and implementing procedures and systems to improve the preparedness and response efforts of LEAs
  • Planning for and coordinating on long-term closures (including on meeting IDEA requirements, how to provide online learning, and how to provide meals to students)
  • Staff training and professional development on sanitation and minimizing the spread of infectious disease
  • Purchasing supplies to sanitize and clean the facilities of LEA, including buildings operated by the LEA
  • Purchasing educational technology (hardware, software, and connectivity) for students, that aids in the regular and substantive educational interaction between students and their classroom instructors, including low-income students and students with disabilities, which may include assistive or adaptive technology
  • Mental health services and supports
  • Summer learning and supplemental after-school programs, including providing classroom instruction or online learning during the summer months and addressing the needs of low-income students, students with disabilities, English learners, migrant students, students experiencing homelessness, and children in foster care
  • Discretionary funds for school principals to address the needs of their individual schools
  • Other activities that are necessary to maintain the operation and continuity of services in LEAs and to continuing the employment of their existing staff


CARES Act, ESSERF, Section 18003 Preliminary Allocations (XLSX)

ESSERF preliminary allocations are based on an LEA’s share of funding received under Title I, Part A in FY 2019–20. To have received 2019–20 Title I, Part A, an LEA must have: 

  • Been deemed an eligible LEA as reflected by a minimum poverty count of 10 and poverty rate greater than 2%; and,
  • Applied for funds on CARS no later than March 31, 2020; and,
  • Submitted the LCAP Federal Addendum


ESSER Fund Frequently Asked Questions and Responses

Reporting Requirements

For reporting on the use of ESSER funds, please use the CARES Act Reporting Application.

The federal requirements found in the CARES Act require that the ESSER Fund and the GEER Fund be subject to the Uniform Grants Guidance. Please refer to ESSER/GEER Capital Expenditures for more information and the pre-approval application.

Other Information

Related Content

  • ESSERF Certification and Agreement External link opens in new window or tab.
    Link to U.S. Department of Education’s state application to apply for funds. LEAs should not complete and submit this application to the California Department of Education, provided solely for informational purposes.


Program Questions:
Questions about the application process, use of funds, and reporting requirements.

Fiscal Questions: Leslie Sharp,
Questions about the determination of LEA allocation amounts and the timing and apportionment of funds.

Questions:   Government Affairs CARES Help |
Last Reviewed: Tuesday, October 6, 2020
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