Skip to main content
California Department of Education Logo

ESSER I Fund Frequently Asked Questions

Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER I) fund frequently asked questions and responses.

Acronyms

Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA); American Rescue Plan Act (ARP Act); Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act); California Department of Education (CDE); Code of Federal Regulations (CFR); Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF); Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA Act); Community Violence Intervention (CVI); Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER); Emergency Assistance for Non-public Schools (EANS); Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA); Fiscal Year (FY); Governor's Emergency Education Relief (GEER); Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA); local educational agency (LEA); state educational agency (SEA); U.S. Department of Education (ED)

General

  1. Do LEAs need to apply for ESSER I funds? (Updated 27-Apr-2021)
    Yes. The ESSER I funding includes formula funds (90% of the state’s full allocation) allocated to LEAs based on Title I shares. Eligible LEAs applied for their allocation of ESSER I funds and the application closed on April 7, 2021.
  2. Do any supplement not supplant requirements apply to ESSER I funds? (Updated 27-Apr-2021)
    No. The ESSER I Fund does not include a local supplement, not supplant requirement. Thus, there is no prohibition on an LEA using ESSER I funds to pay expenses formerly funded by another source.
  3. What are the allowable uses of ESSER I funds?
    An LEA may use ESSER funds for the broad range of activities listed in section 18003(d) of the CARES Act, section 313(d) of the CRRSA Act, and section 2001(e) of the ARP Act, based on guidance that what is allowable under one of the ESSER funds is allowable under all of the ESSER funds. Use of any ESSER funds (ESSER I, ESSER II, or ESSER III) must be in accordance with allowable uses in any of these three federal stimulus acts. Below is a consolidated list of allowable uses. Please note that these allowable uses categories will also be utilized during quarterly reporting on each of the ESSER funds.
    1. Any activity authorized by the ESEA, the IDEA, the AEFLA, or the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 or the McKinney Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act.

    2. Coordinating preparedness and response efforts of LEA with state, local, tribal, and territorial public health departments, and other relevant agencies, to improve coordinated responses with other agencies to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.

    3. Providing principals and other school leaders with the resources necessary to address the unique needs of their individual schools.

    4. 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.

    5. Developing and implementing procedures and systems to improve the preparedness and response efforts of LEAs.

    6. LEA staff training and professional development on sanitation and minimizing the spread of infectious diseases.

    7. Purchasing supplies to sanitize and clean the facilities of an LEA, including buildings operated by such agency.

    8. Planning for, coordinating, and implementing activities during long-term closures, including how to provide meals, technology for online learning, guidance on IDEA requirements, and ensuring other educational services can continue to be provided consistent with all applicable requirements.

    9. Purchasing educational technology (including hardware, software, and connectivity) for students served by the LEA that aids in regular and substantive educational interactions between students and their classroom teachers, including low-income students and children with disabilities, which may include assistive technology or adaptive equipment.

    10. Providing mental health services and supports, including through the implementation of evidence-based full-service community schools.

    11. Planning and implementing activities related to summer learning and supplemental afterschool 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.

    12. Addressing learning loss among students, including low-income students, students with disabilities, English learners, racial and ethnic minorities, students experiencing homelessness, and children in foster care, of the LEA, including by–
      • Administering and using high-quality assessments that are valid and reliable, to accurately assess students’ academic progress and assist educators in meeting students’ academic progress and assist educators in meeting students’ academic needs, including through differentiating instruction.
      • Implementing evidence-based activities to meet the comprehensive needs of students.
      • Providing information and assistance to parents and families on how they can effectively support students, including in a distance learning environment.
      • Tracking student attendance and improving student engagement in distance education.

    13. School facility repairs and improvements to enable operation of schools to reduce risk of virus transmission and exposure to environmental health hazards, and to support student health needs.

    14. Inspection, testing, maintenance, repair, replacement, and upgrade projects to improve the indoor air quality in school facilities, including mechanical and non-mechanical heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, filtering, purification, and other air cleaning, fans, control systems, and window and door repair and replacement.

    15. Developing strategies and implementing public health protocols including, to the greatest extent practicable, policies in line with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the reopening and operation of school facilities to effectively maintain the health and safety of students, educators, and other staff

    16. Other activities that are necessary to maintain operations and continuity of services and continuing to employ existing staff.
  4. What does it mean for ESSER and GEER funds to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic? (Added 7-Jan-2022)

    All ESSER and GEER funds must generally be used to prevent, prepare for, or respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. On December 29, 2021, ED released supplemental guidance External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF) to the pre-existing Frequently Asked Questions External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF) published in May 2021 related to the use of ESSER and GEER funds to clarify “What does it mean for ESSER and GEER funds to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic?”

    In the supplemental guidance, ED encourages SEAs and LEAs to think holistically about their response to COVID-19 in order to address the impact of lost instructional time from the pandemic on all students and to address pre-existing challenges that, if left unaddressed, will impede recovery from the pandemic. The supplemental guidance supports broadening how funds may be used to address the impact of the pandemic and lost instructional time and provides examples of allowable uses. However, LEAs must still articulate in their spending plans how the cost or need is connected to or impacted by the pandemic.

    ED also emphasizes wording from the ESSER and GEER FAQs External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF) published in May 2021: “These Federal emergency resources are available for a wide range of activities to address diverse needs arising from or exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, or to emerge stronger post-pandemic, including responding to students’ social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs and continuing to provide educational services as States, LEAs, and schools respond to and recover from the pandemic.”
    Please review the supplemental guidance External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF) for the full text and examples of allowable uses.

  1. How long do LEAs have to use ESSER I funds?
    ESSER I funds are available for obligation by LEAs through September 30, 2022. Obligated ESSER funds must be liquidated within 120 calendar days of the end of the award period.
  2. Must LEAs pay existing contracts in order to receive ESSER I funds?
    Section 18006 of the CARES Act requires entities that receive ESSER I funds to continue to pay employees and contractors “to the greatest extent practicable.”
  3. Which funds from the CARES Act are subject to the equitable services requirement? (Added 22-Jul-2020)

    The CARES Act specifies that LEAs that receive funding from ESSER I and GEER I funds, must provide related equitable services. (Section 18005(a) of the CARES Act).

    The state budget for 2020–21 that was approved by the Governor and the Legislature at the end of June provided all of the $355 million California received for GEER to LEAs as part of the larger $5.3 billion effort to support student academic achievement and mitigate learning loss related to COVID-19 school closures. The budget also directed most of funding from the ESSER I state reserve to LEAs through $112.2 million to support nutrition services and $45 million for a competitive grant program to support and expand existing community schools. These funds are all subject to the equitable services in addition to the $1.4 billion funding formula driven funding to schools based on their Title I counts.

  4. Does the requirement to provide equitable services to students and teachers in non-public (private) schools apply to activities supported by ESSER I or GEER I funds? (Updated 2-Feb-2021)

    Yes. An LEA that receives ESSER I or GEER I funds must, for any activities supported by ESSER I or GEER I funds, provide related equitable services to students and teachers in non-public (private) schools “in the same manner” as provided under section 1117 (Title I, Part A) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA). (Section 18005(a) of the CARES Act).

    On June 25, 2020, Secretary DeVos and the U.S. Department of Education (ED) promulgated an Interim Final Rule (Rule), seeking to mandate how LEAs must calculate CARES Act funding for equitable services. On August 26, 2020, Judge James Donato of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting ED and Secretary DeVos from applying and enforcing the Rule or ED’s prior guidance. On September 4, 2020, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia entered a final judgment invalidating the rule nationwide. Therefore, the Rule (and ED’s guidance issued prior to that date) must be treated as void.

    On September 8, 2020, ED announced it would not appeal the various court decisions invalidating or enjoining the Rule regarding equitable services to private school students and teachers under the CARES Act. In a follow-up letter on September 25, 2020, ED said that it will not take any enforcement action against states or school districts that followed the guidance or the Rule while it was in effect. However, ED stated that moving forward, districts must calculate the proportional share for private schools according to the formula laid out in Section 1117 of the ESEA, as cited in Section 18005 of the CARES Act. ED’s letter notes that it will focus enforcement on ensuring that consultation requirements are met, alongside basic equitable services requirements. The agency urges districts to complete these new calculations and “provide equitable services to privates schools as soon as possible.”

    Thus, LEAs should calculate funding for equitable services in the same manner as provided under Section 1117 of ESEA as discussed above, i.e., based solely on the number of students from low-income families attending private schools. (See next paragraph.) Districts should recalculate the allocation of funds for equitable services according to the statutory Title I formula and redirect to public school services any amount previously allocated in excess thereof.

    Under guidance issued by ED on October 9, 2020, in calculating the proportional share of ESSER I and GEER I funds, an LEA may use the proportional share calculated for Title I purposes from either school year 2019–20 or 2020–21. ED also now affirms that, unlike Title I funds, the “supplement not supplant” requirement does not apply to ESSER and GEER funds. Further, ED’s guidance provides that while the proportional share for private schools should be calculated according to Title I of ESEA, the allowable use of funds is broader, and services may benefit all private school students and teachers at any private school, rather than just low-achieving students and their teachers. ED's guidance is at Providing Equitable Services to Students and Teachers in Non-Public Schools Under the CARES Act Program External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF).

    ED’s September 25 letter said that the agency would not consider funds expended under the Rule prior to the court decision as being misallocated. This likely means that any expenditures obligated consistent with the Rule prior to September 8, 2020, are allowable. Districts are also encouraged to consult with their own legal counsel regarding any such decisions.

    Additional information on determining the proportional share for equitable services under ESEA Section 1117 can be found by visiting the CDE’s Equitable Services Frequently Asked Questions web page.

  5. How are disputes with private schools regarding the amount allocated to provide equitable services to be resolved? (Updated 2-Feb-2021)
    Consistent with sections 8501 and 8503 of ESEA, a private school may file a complaint directly with the CDE alleging a violation of the equitable services requirements. The CDE believes that the ESEA complaint procedures apply to the CARES Act and the ESSER I Fund. The CDE has 45 days from receipt of the complaint to render a decision. A party dissatisfied with the CDE’s decision may appeal to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education (ED) within 30 days. The Secretary has 90 days from receipt of the appeal to investigate and resolve the appeal. Given the dynamic legal situation surrounding the equitable service requirements for CARES Act funds, LEAs are strongly encouraged to seek their own legal counsel before making any decisions in this regard.
  6. Can Federal Stimulus Funds be used for CVI Programs and Strategies? (Added 2-Nov-2021)
    ESSER and GEER funds may be used for CVI programs and strategies to provide student support to re-engage disconnected youth and reduce community violence in places where COVID-19 has exacerbated inequities and increased community and school violence. For more information on CVI strategies and funding, please reference the U.S. Department of Education’s guidance, How American Rescue Plan Funds Can Prevent and Respond to Crime and Promote Public Safety External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF) and the Biden-Harris Administration’s Fact Sheet External link opens in new window or tab. .
  7. Can ESSER funds be used toward strategies for hiring and retaining qualified and effective educators and other staff? (Updated 13-Jun-2022)
    On December 16, 2021, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona sent out a letter to clarify that ESSER III funds authorized by the ARP Act may be used to support hiring and retaining qualified and effective educators, in alignment with the goal to provide safe, in-person learning and address the social, emotional, mental health, and academic impact of COVID-19. Because previous guidance from ED states that allowable uses of one ESSER fund are allowable under all three ESSER funds, this clarification additionally applies to ESSER I and ESSER II funds. The letter describes four evidence-based and promising short- and long-term strategies for addressing teacher and staff shortages that can be funded through ESSER funds:
    1. Increase educator and staff compensation
    2. Build and maintain a cadre of high-quality substitute teachers
    3. Support educator and staff well-being, including improved working conditions (including systems to support educator and staff well-being, increasing the availability of qualified adults and personnel to support educators, students, and staff, and implementing flexible and creative scheduling to support students for full-week in-person learning while providing planning and collaboration time for teachers.)
    4. Make investments in the educator pipeline

    For the full text of this letter, including more information and examples of each of these strategies, please reference the Letter from Secretary Cardona re: Addressing Teacher and Staff Shortages External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF; posted 16-Dec-2021).

    UPDATE (04-Mar-2022): Additionally, ED has released guidance that summarizes strategies LEAs can implement to address teacher and staff shortages, leveraging ESSER funds. For examples of strategies to address teacher shortages, please see the Using American Rescue Plan Funds and Other Federal Resources to Address Teacher Shortages fact sheet External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF). For examples of strategies to address shortages of other staff, including nurses, social workers, bus drivers, cafeteria staff, custodial staff, and others, please see the Using American Rescue Plan Funds and Other Federal Supports to Address Staff Shortages fact sheet External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF).

    UPDATE (13-Jun-2022): ED released additional guidance on June 9, 2022, with the Sustaining Investments in Teachers Beyond the American Rescue Plan External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF) fact sheet, which provides examples of how ESSER funds can be used to invest in strategies addressing teacher shortages. It also provides examples of other federal funding available that may be used for the same purposes to support the transition from ESSER funding to other available federal fund sources when the period of availability for ESSER funds has ended. This fact sheet acknowledges the ESSER funds are key to supporting immediate, short-term staffing needs, but other federal fund sources may be needed to sustain investments in teachers over time. ED will continue to provide resources and other assistance to states, districts, and schools as they work to address the teacher shortages in the short- and long-term.

  8. What are some examples of allowable expenditures LEAs are using stimulus funds for? (Added 10-Jan-2022)

    The following are examples of expenditures select LEAs provided when surveyed about how they were successfully and thoughtfully expending ESSER and GEER funds. All example expenditures were necessary for the surveyed LEA to prevent, prepare for, or respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    • Technology for classrooms and for every student
    • Maintaining and increasing classified and certificated staff numbers
    • HVAC upgrades and replacements
    • Additional portable classrooms and bathrooms to allow for social distancing
    • Roving substitutes
    • Personal Protective Equipment
    • Additional transportation
    • Contact tracing and testing
    • Attendance monitoring systems
    • Curriculum materials
    • Instructional supplies
    • STEM materials
    • Nutritional Services
    • Backpacks and school supplies
    • Implement or significantly expand sports programs
    • Expanding counselor and psychologist access
    • Social emotional learning resources
    • Parent and staff training
  1. How have other LEAs used Federal Stimulus Funds to support students? (Added 17-May-2022)

    CDE has performed outreach to LEAs of varying sizes and geographical locations to find and promote success stories with regards to how Federal Stimulus Funds have been used to benefit students. With increased funding from the ARP Act and other legislation that previously allocated Federal Stimulus Funds, many districts have used this funding in unique ways to help students. When contacted. almost every LEA pointed to three key areas of funding that have been incredibly successful: funding programs to mitigate student learning loss, increased funding for COVID-19 prevention, and expanded purchases of classroom technology. Allocating funds to address the impact of lost instructional time through after-school and summer school programs have created opportunities for increased academic success and learning loss mitigation. Mitigating COVID-19 transmission at school has been a near-universal funding focus, with LEAs allocating funds to increase air filtration, testing, and other mitigation measures. LEAs throughout the state have also purchased computers and tablets while also spending more funds on implementing high-speed internet on campuses. These purchases have decreased the technology access gap among students.

    Unique Programs specific LEAs have implemented in response to COVID-19

    • Hiring outside consultants to study equity within the LEA and offer suggestions to address learning loss for students who have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • Hiring more staff, specifically more psychologists coupled with increased mental health services, to ensure students with mental health issues are effectively served.
    • Increased special education funding to ensure special education students who were severely impacted by online learning can be helped.
    • Increased mental health services funding, as there has been an increase in mental health needs among students.
    • Literacy acceleration programs to ensure students acquire necessary literacy skills inside the classroom.


Funding

  1. Will the CDE post preliminary allocations? (Updated 27-Apr-2021)

    Yes, the CDE has posted LEAs’ revised allocations on the ESSER I Funding Results web page.

  2. Are LEAs that did not receive Title I funds in the most recent fiscal year eligible for ESSER I funds?

    With one exception, as described below, no, LEAs that did not receive Title I funds are not eligible to receive ESSER I funds. LEAs receive ESSER I funds based on their relative share of Title I funds. If an LEA did not receive Title I funds in the most recent fiscal year—either because it was not eligible or because it declined funding—then it would not generate a share of ESSER I funds.

    The exception is charter schools that are new in the 2020–21 school year (and thus did not receive a Title I allocation for 2019–20), then federal law requires that CDE hold back a reasonable portion of its ESSER I funds in order to provide those charter schools with allocations once their Title I enrollments are known.

  3. Why is the CDE not apportioning an LEA’s full allocation? How will payments be calculated? (Added 22-Jul-2020)

    As with most other federal funds apportioned to LEAs, ESSER I funds are subject to federal cash management requirements. As such, CDE is required to implement cash management practices that minimize the time elapsing between the receipt and disbursement of funds by recipients of formula based federal grants awarded by the CDE. By agreement with the federal government, CDE meets this requirement, in part, by apportioning LEAs 25% of their total allocation less remaining cash balance from prior apportionments.

  4. Are ESSER I funds subject to the excess interest calculation? (Added 22-Jul-2020)

    Yes. For more information about interest calculation, see Calculating Interest Earned on Federal Funds.

  5. How often will LEAs receive payment? (Added 22-Jul-2020)

    LEAs will receive payment approximately six to eight weeks after the quarterly reporting window closes.

Reporting

  1. Can LEAs use funds to reimburse expenses that were incurred during the 2019–20 fiscal year, such as devices for distance learning? (Updated 27-Apr-2021)

    Yes. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) has stated that LEAs may use the funds for expenses incurred beginning March 13, the date on which the President declared a national emergency.

  2. Will LEAs be required to report to CDE on these funds? (Added 26-Oct-2020)

    Yes, the CDE requires LEAs to report on the use of funds. Please refer to the Federal Stimulus Reporting Requirements for the reporting application, help page, and reporting window information.

Vaccinations

  1. Can ESSER and GEER funds be used to conduct vaccine clinics? (Added 13-Jul-2021).

    ESSER and GEER funds may be used to facilitate vaccine clinics for staff, eligible students and household members. ESSER and GEER funds may be used to help implement public health protocols. Other vaccination outreach efforts are also allowable under ESSER and GEER. This can include public awareness campaigns and vaccine incentive programs. Please reference the On-Site Vaccination Clinic Toolkit External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF) for more information on how to facilitate a clinic.

  2. Are administrative costs associated with providing vaccinations allowable under ESSER and GEER funds? (Added 13-Jul-2021)

    Reasonable administrative costs are allowable when associated with obtaining vaccinations.

  3. Can we give students incentives for getting vaccinated? (Added 13-Jul-2021)

    Incentives are allowable under GEER and ESSER, provided they are reasonable in size and scope and likely to lead to an increase in the rate of vaccinations. Examples include nominal gift cards to each vaccinated student, prize drawings for tablets, new school supplies, college scholarship money, and reasonable cash awards. Any incentives provided by an LEA must meet the requirements in 2 CFR Part 200, including the requirement that the amount of the incentive be reasonable and may not violate any other applicable laws or requirements (e.g., incentives may not involve alcohol per 2 CFR § 200.423).

  4. Is it just students or can families get vaccinated at an ESSER or GEER funded vaccination clinic? (Added 13-Jul-2021)

    Students, staff and household members can receive vaccinations from a LEA facilitated clinic.

  5. Is COVID-19 screening and testing allowable under ESSER and GEER? (Added 13-Jul-2021)

    COVID-19 screening and testing is an allowable use of ESSER and GEER funds, as it is part of implementing public health protocols. Consultation with state and local health officials is key to ensure the adequacy of any COVID-19 testing program and that all applicable laws and requirements are being followed.

Transportation

  1. May an LEA use ESSER or GEER funds to provide transportation for students to and from school? (Added 18-Nov-2021)

    Yes. Supporting or providing transportation services for students is an allowable use of funds under ESSER and GEER as long as the need is related to COVID-19 (e.g., to support daily attendance at school to address the impact of lost instructional time) and the cost is reasonable and necessary. This could include, but is not limited to, transportation services provided directly by the school district; the cost of public transportation services (e.g., bus or subway fare); taxis, rideshare apps, or other driving services; or compensation to parents for providing transportation services for their children.

    This FAQ is from the U.S. Department of Education's FAQs on Transportation External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF).

  2. May an LEA use ESSER or GEER funds to provide transportation for students participating in after-school learning and enrichment activities provided by the LEA? (Added 18-Nov-2021)

    Yes. If activities take place away from the school or after regular transportation home has occurred and are intended to address student needs related to COVID-19 (e.g., to address the impact of lost instructional time), and the cost is reasonable and necessary, transportation may be an allowable use of ESSER or GEER funds. For example, an LEA may provide before- and after-school learning and enrichment activities for students including, for example, high dosage evidence-based tutoring to address the academic impact of lost instructional time, and other activities that address the social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs of students, including extended school year (ESY) or other compensatory and related services for eligible students under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Reasonable and necessary costs of transportation to and from such activities would be an allowable use of ESSER and GEER funds.

    This FAQ is from the U.S. Department of Education's FAQs on Transportation External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF).

  3. May an LEA use ESSER or GEER funds to address a shortage of school bus drivers due to the pandemic? (Added 18-Nov-2021)

    Yes. For example, an LEA may use ESSER or GEER funds for retention bonuses for current bus drivers, for salary increases, or for the cost of hiring additional bus drivers to address the shortage of bus drivers due to the pandemic. Similarly, if an LEA is operating more bus routes due to physical distancing, funds may be used to hire additional bus drivers. In addition, funds may be used to pay for the costs associated with obtaining a commercial driver’s license for new bus drivers, including the required training.

    This FAQ is from the U.S. Department of Education's FAQs on Transportation External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF).

  4. May an LEA facing a shortage of school bus drivers use ESSER or GEER funds to compensate parents or guardians for transporting their students to and from school? (Added 18-Nov-2021)

    Yes. ESSER or GEER funds may be used to reimburse parents or guardians for transportation costs or to offer a stipend for transportation costs, as long as they are reasonable and necessary. This type of program may be appropriate to sustain in-person instruction if an LEA is experiencing challenges hiring and/or retaining the school bus drivers necessary to accommodate the LEA’s transportation needs. Before compensating parents or guardians for transportation costs, an LEA must develop clear, objective procedures that, in addition to other relevant factors, consider: the number of days of transportation provided for in-person attendance; documentation of the travel costs to ensure that the compensation is used only for transportation-related expenses; and a process to account for any ESSER or GEER funds that were paid to parents or guardians but not used for transportation costs.

    This FAQ is from the U.S. Department of Education's FAQs on Transportation External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF).

Questions:   CDE Federal Stimulus Team | EDReliefFunds@cde.ca.gov
Last Reviewed: Monday, June 13, 2022