At-Risk Students Targeted in ESSER Funding


What Is ESSER Funding?

ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) funding is the portion of funding from the three COVID-19 relief laws designated to help address educational issues arising from the pandemic. There are three Coronavirus relief bills passed by the U.S. Congress that provided significant funding for K-12 education, totaling over $190 billion.  

ESSER funding comes with a lot of flexibility in how State Education Agencies (SEAs) and Local Education Agencies (LEAs) can spend these funds. However, it is important to remember there are some restrictions on how these funds can be used. The one major restriction on how ESSER funds may be used is that they must be used to address issues that have been caused or exacerbated by the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.  

The ESSER funding laws include long lists of allowable uses of these funds, including the catch-all use of “Other activities that are necessary to maintain the operation of and continuity of services in the LEA.” Only the ARP Act requires that a portion of the funds be spent on specific activities. With that, districts have a lot of flexibility on how they can use ESSER funds. 

ESSER Funds for At-Risk Populations

Several of the allowable uses of these funds include a description of how the activities funded with these ESSER funds should be used to provide services to specific at-risk groups of students. While all students are intended to benefit from the provision of ESSER funds, at-risk student groups, whose access to quality educational services may have been exacerbated by the pandemic disruptions, are called out to be targeted by these funds. The list of at-risk student groups includes the following: 

  • Low-income children or students 
  • Children with Disabilities 
  • English Learners 
  • Racial and ethnic minorities 
  • Students experiencing homelessness 
  • Foster care youth 

One of the allowable uses of ESSER funds included in all three laws summarizes the targeting of at-risk groups the best. It says LEAs are allowed to use ESSER funds for, “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.” 

Districts have a lot of flexibility on how they can use CRRSAA funds, especially to serve at-risk populations. The fact that districts can use CRRSAA funds for any ESSA activity - “Any activity authorized by the ESEA” means that districts can use these funds to purchase products from the TransACT family of products, including ParentNotices, AfterSchool21, and Homeless Information Management System for Students (HIMSS). 

Take a look at this webinar that highlights how HIMSS software helps school districts better serve their most vulnerable students, or contact a team member to learn more about how these products can serve real needs in your district today. 

Dr. David Holbrook

About The Author

Dr. David Holbrook is a nationally recognized leader in federal programs administration and monitoring with expertise in Title I, Title III, Native American Education, and Federal Programs. Dr. Holbrook has also worked as a consultant with Title III of the US Department of Education and now serves as Executive Director, Federal Compliance and State Relationships with TransACT Communications.