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Clinical and Special Education Funding & Grants

What the New Emergency Relief Funds May Mean for Special Education Leaders

Riverside Insights
Written By Riverside Insights
On Jan 28, 2021
11 minute read

New emergency relief funds of $54 billion dollars announced to support schools ongoing educational and learning needs in COVID-19 

Additional school relief funds totaling $67.6 Billion between ESSER I and ESSER II are now available as part of the CARES Act and CRRSA to support school resource needs created by the effects of COVID-19 and school closures. Review the below FAQ to determine how you can use allocated funds to support your educational needs this Spring.


Overview of available stimulus funds:  


To provide educators with economic support for resource challenges created by the effects of COVID-19 and nation-wide school closures, the CARES Act created the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) in the Spring of 2020, which allocated $13 Billion of funding to support specific school areas of need. Recently, additional COVID-19 relief funds have been announced as part of the CRRSA Act, which will provide an additional $54 Billion emergency relief package for the education system to address the on-going impacts of COVID-19. The funds under the CARES Act (ESSER I) and under the CRRSA Act (ESSER II) are allocated for specific purposes. 


Opportunities for using your ESSER funds:

click here to download the infographic


ESSER I & II Funding Categories 

Example Uses 

Riverside Solutions 

Uses authorized under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act 

  •  Support students with disabilities 
  •   Promote Bi-lingual Education 

Addressing Learning Loss among students, including by using high-quality, valid and reliable assessments 

  • Reviewing IEPs to update student services to address the COVID learning gaps 
  • Addressing developmental delays in early childhood settings 
  • Diagnosing language proficiency slides due to COVID 

Address needs of historically marginalized and vulnerable populations 

  • Ensure equitable access to SPED resources, especially Title 1 schools, EL, and students of color 

Resources for school leaders to address local needs 

  • PPE resources to enable safe in-person testing
  • Remote learning and virtual assessment tools 

Mental Health Services 

  • Supporting Social-emotional learning programs 
  • Happy Healthy Toolkit 


How to access your ESSER Funds:  

The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) distributes all ESSER I & II funds. The DOE makes grants available to each State Educational Agency (SEA) (i.e., State boards of education). Distributions from the DOE to SEAs are made in proportion to a state’s allocation of Title I funds in the most recent fiscal year. An SEA, in turn, distributes at least 90% of the funds to Local Educational Agencies (LEA) (e.g., a school district, charter schools). The remaining funds not distributed to LEAs may be retained for state-level expenditures and administrative costs (capped at 0.5% of total allocation to state). Reach out to your SEA to inquire about accessing your school or districts’ available funds.  


For more detailed information comparing the conditions for ESSER I & ESSER II funds, please see the summary below:  





Total Amount of Fund 



Allocation by State 



Timing for SEA Sub-granting Funds to LEAs 

Within 1 year of SEA receiving award (April through June 2021, depending on SEA’s award date) 

Within 1 year of SEA receiving award (January 2022) 

Latest Date LEAs Can Obligate Funds  

September 30, 2022 

September 30, 2023 

Pre-Award Costs 

May be used for pre-award costs dating back to March 13, 2020 

Approved Uses of Funds 

(1) Uses authorized under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (e.g., promoting bilingual education, support for students with disabilities);  
(2) COVID-19 preparedness;  
(3) Resources to school leaders to address school needs;

(4) Address needs of historically marginalized and vulnerable populations; 

(5) Improving general preparedness and response efforts;

(6) Coordinating long-term closure (e.g., remote learning, providing meals);

(7) Training on sanitation and minimizing disease spread;

(8) Cleaning supplies; (9) Education technology for students;

(10) Mental health services;

(11) Summer learning and after-school programming;

(12) Discretionary money for principals to address student needs;

(13) Other activities to maintain operations and to continue employing staff; (14) Addressing learning loss among students, including by using high-quality, valid, and reliable assessments;

(15) Facility repairs/improvement to reduce risk of virus transmission; and

(16) improving in-door air quality 

Non-Public Schools 

An LEA that receives ESSER I funds must provide equitable services to non-public school students and teachers 

“Equitable Services” requirement does not apply. Non-public school assistance covered under separate program of Emergency Assistance for Non-Public Schools (EANS).


EANS: $2,750,000,000 is reserved for an Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools (EANS) program. Non-public schools may apply to an SEA to receive services or assistance. Generally, allowable activities under EANS relate to safely reopening schools, continuing instruction, addressing learning loss, supporting educational technology and reimbursing for certain coronavirus-related costs.  

Tracking Funds 

ESSER I and ESSER II funds must be tracked separately. 

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