ESSER Funds are One-Time Funds: Why is This Important?



In March of 2021, the U.S Congress passed the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act, providing an additional $122 billion in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding. This funding, coupled with the CARES Act (passed March 2020) and CRRSA Act (passed December 2020) ESSER funds brings the total ESSER funding to about $190 billion to help education agencies at the state and local level address the educational impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

ESSER funds are one-time funds, which means that when these funds run out, they will not be replaced. CARES Act ESSER funds expire on September 30, 2022. This means they must be obligated to be spent no later than September 30, 2022 and must be spent by January 28, 2023. CARES Act ESSER funds that have not been spent by January 28, 2023 must be returned to the U.S. Department of Education (USED). CRRSA Act ESSER funds have the same expiration date in 2023 and spending date in 2024 and ARP Act ESSER funds have the same expiration date in 2024 and spending date in 2025.

Because ESSER funds are one-time funds, they are typically not spent on purchases that may have recurring costs unless the State Education Agency (SEA) or Local Education Agency (LEA) knows that they will have the budget to cover those recurring costs once the one-time funding runs out. Since in most cases SEAs and LEAs can’t anticipate significant increases in funding that could cover recurring costs of purchases made with one-time funds, they are often hesitant to make these types of purchases. 

The Good News

There is some good news for LEAs that want to make purchases with recurring costs that qualify for Title I funding. The U.S. Congress has passed, and the President has signed into law the FY2022 Appropriations Bill, which includes a $1 billion increase in Title I funding for LEAs over the previous year. LEAs will see this increase in their Title I funding starting during the 2022-2023 school year. This increase in Title I funds could provide the additional funding LEAs may need to cover the recurring costs of Title I qualified purchases made now with ESSER funds by budgeting for the recurring costs using the increase in Title I funds expected in the following school year. 

But How Can My District Use These Funds?

Districts have a lot of flexibility on how they can use CRRSAA funds. 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, AfterSchool21TravelTracker-Routing, FacilityTracker, and Homeless Information Management System for Students (HIMSS). 

Take a look at this webinar that highlights how ParentNotices, an ESSER- and Title I-eligible software, helps school districts remain legally compliant with the law, or contact a team member to learn more about how these products can serve other 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.