ESSER Q&A October 18, 2021

Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief

Prepared by Jennifer Sudhoff, Treasurer/CFO

Why is the district receiving these funds?

The federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds, known as ESSER funds, were authorized by Congress as part of three COVID-19 relief packages to help local school districts address needs and recover student “learning loss” – the decrease in educational progress experienced by many students during the pandemic. Benjamin Logan is receiving a total of $2,499,102.66 in these funds broken down like this:

  • $176,920.46 in ESSER I funds included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
  • $99,240.63 from the Coronavirus Relief Fund small town and rural
  • $684,518.45 in ESSER II funds from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA).
  • $1,538,423.12 in ESSER III funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

Are there deadlines for using the funds?

These are one-time funds that must be used by September 2022 (ESSER I), September 2023 (ESSER II) or September 2024 (ESSER III).

How was it decided how much money BL received?

Fund distribution was based on a formula devised by Congress. Each school district received its allocation based on the percent of total Title I funds it receives. Title I funds are federal dollars that provide financial assistance to children from low-income families. In other words, school districts with higher percentages of low-income families received more ESSER funds.

What can the funds be used for?

What can the funds be used for? There’s actually considerable flexibility for school districts in deciding how to use the money. That includes expenses directly related to the pandemic as well as other school district activities “necessary to maintain the operation of continuity of services,” according to the Ohio Department of Education. But we can’t use the money for anything we’d choose. There are restrictions. For example, 20% of ESSER III funds must be spent to make up for learning loss, such as by having summer camps, extended day learning and tutoring.

What is Benjamin Logan spending the funds on?

The district is looking at the most impactful purchases. Any necessary Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE. We will be purchasing two additional vehicles, technology and technology infrastructure, new flooring throughout our buildings, including tile to replace the original carpet, and HVAC and ventilation upgrades. It’s important to emphasize again that this is one-time money, so we’re going to be careful with it and not make commitments that require funding beyond when we have these funds.

Does this mean no levy?

Again, this is one-time money to “prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus,” according to the federal government. We’re going to use these funds where applicable to enhance infrastructure and facilities for the long term. Our annual cash flow to cover our day-today expenses is driven by state funding and tax dollars. We can’t predict the future, especially state funding levels beyond the two-year state budget. Still, as Superintendent John Scheu has said, there is no need for a school levy now or in the near future. The big unknown remains state funding over the next several years. But we feel confident that with the tough expense decisions we’ve made and policies we’ve put in place, our financial well-being should continue positively and on course.

How can we be sure you’re spending this money on what you said you’d spend it on?

This is public money and the public deserves to know how it’s spent. The Treasurer will provide quarterly updates to the Board of Education on the investments made with ESSER funds. Additionally, there are checks, balances and watchdogs for this money. The U.S. Department of Education is requiring reports, including how school districts addressed student learning gaps. And ESSER funds are subject to federal audit requirements and to review by the Government Accountability Office and other federal agencies.