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The CARES Act: How to Access Federal Coronavirus Stimulus Money for Education

Click HERE to view The CARES Act: How to Access Federal Coronavirus Stimulus Money for Education as a multimedia presentation.

The CARES Act: How to Access Federal Coronavirus Stimulus Money for Education

So how’s your school year going? In spring of a normal year, teachers and administrators might share success stories and talk about how they’re looking forward to launching another class of graduates out into the workforce or on to higher education.

Unfortunately, 2020 has been anything but a normal year thus far, and it’s uncertain when — or if — we’ll get back to “normal” anytime soon. For educators, it has been a stressful time of trying to keep students on track and learning without being able to be with them in person.

The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has forced educators around the world to adapt to a new way of teaching using eLearning delivered via the Internet. While some instructors may have had some experience with eLearning in the past, many others were forced to embrace new methods they were unprepared to use.

Schools at all levels have been impacted tremendously, and continued social distancing requirements may affect schools for months to come. The changes brought about by the Coronavirus emergency have imposed new financial burdens on schools, most of which experience funding shortages on a regular basis during normal times.

How can schools deal with these unforeseen financial difficulties that have resulted from the COVID-19 crisis? What can they do to prepare for future costs they may incur if social distancing measures continue?

In this article, we’ll take a look at the ways schools can seek assistance in the form of new grants made available by the federal government as part of its emergency Coronavirus stimulus package called the CARES Act. We’ll discuss available grants, where to find information, and how those funds can be used to put programs in place that will facilitate eLearning for students now and in the future.

The CARES Act

The CARES Act includes $30.75 billion for an Education Stabilization Fund.

On March 27, 2020, President Trump signed into law The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This massive economic relief package includes over $2 trillion intended to protect the American people from the public health and economic impacts of COVID-19.

Educational institutions at all levels can benefit from the CARES Act. It includes $30.75 billion for an Education Stabilization Fund, which establishes four grant programs: Education Stabilization Fund Discretionary Grants; Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund; Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund; and Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund.

Funding for these new grants is being rolled out in stages. Although exact timelines have not yet been established for all grants, educators can expect CARES Act grant money to begin being disbursed to states over the course of the next two to three months.

Governors and state educational agencies will oversee allocation of funds to eligible schools. CARES Act funds must be spent by September 2021. In the sections that follow, we will take an in-depth look at each of the grant programs established by the CARES Act, as well as extensions that have been granted related to Perkins V funding.

Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund

Approximately $3 billion of the $30.75 billion allotted to the Education Stabilization Fund through the CARES Act is earmarked for the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEERF). These grants will be disbursed by the Department of Education to state governor’s offices based upon the following two-part formula:

  • 60% based on the state’s relative population of individuals aged 5 through 24; and
  • 40% based on the state’s relative number of children counted under section 1124(c) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA).

The application and disbursement process for the GEERF money was announced on April 14, 2020. According to an expert analysis of the GEERF details, there are no predetermined criteria for making allocations to Local Educational Agencies (LEAs), Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs), or other educational institutions. This means governors and their state educational agencies (SEAs) have significant discretion to make distributions within their states.

GEERF guidelines make it clear the governors have wide latitude to provide funds to educational institutions of all kinds at all levels.

As noted in a recent article by The National Law Review, however, the CARES Act does list three allowable uses of GEERF money that make it clear the governors have wide latitude to provide funds to educational institutions of all kinds at all levels:

  • Provide emergency support through grants to local educational agencies that the state agency has deemed most significantly impacted by coronavirus and supporting the ability to provide those educational services and functionality;
  • Provide emergency support through grants to institutions of higher education serving students within the state that the Governor determines have been most significantly impacted by coronavirus to support the ability of such institutions to continue to provide educational services and support the ongoing functionality of the institution; and
  • Provide support to any other institution of higher education, local educational agency, or education related entity within the state that the Governor deems essential for carrying out emergency educational services to students for authorized activities described in section 18003(d)(1) of this title or the Higher Education Act, the provision of child care and early childhood education, social and emotional support, and the protection of education-related jobs.

Since GEERF disbursement is under way and governors and SEAs have been given a lot of freedom to decide how to use these funds, educational institutions that have been significantly impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic should contact their governor’s office for more information regarding availability of and processes for requesting GEERF money.

Education Stabilization Fund Discretionary Grants

Congress also set aside 1% of the $30.75 billion Education Stabilization Fund for grants to States with the highest coronavirus burden. When disbursed, these grants will also go to state governor’s offices.

To date, very little information has been made available about these discretionary grants. For example, it is unclear how it will be determined which states have “the highest coronavirus burden.” Interested parties who believe their state may qualify should follow up with their governor’s office for more information.

Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund

ESSERF money can be used by K-12 schools to provide technology for online learning to all students, including purchasing hardware, software, and connectivity.

Approximately $13.2 billion has been set aside for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSERF). These grants will be distributed ­to state educational agencies (SEAs) for the purpose of providing local educational agencies (LEAs) with emergency relief funds to address the impact that COVID-19 has had, and continues to have, on elementary and secondary schools across the Nation.

ESSERF money will be allocated to SEAs in the same proportion as each state received funds under Part A of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) in fiscal year 2019. Per the CARES Act, ESSERF money has several allowable uses, including:

  • Any activity authorized by the ESEA, including…the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006;
  • Planning for and coordinating during long-term closures, including for…how to provide technology for online learning to all students;
  • Purchasing educational technology (including hardware, software, and connectivity) for students who are served by the local educational agency that aids in regular and substantive educational interaction between students and their classroom instructors; and
  • 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.

K-12 schools may also have another source of potential funds. The CARES Act includes an additional $100 million in grants under Project SERV, which is dedicated to helping school districts and post-secondary institutions recover from “a violent or traumatic event that disrupts learning.” These funds can support distance learning, as well as mental health counseling and disinfecting schools.

Furthermore, the Department of Education has indicated a willingness to offer states more flexibility in how they spend their existing money, with release of a template for requesting waivers. This could allow schools to spend more of the federal dollars they’ve already been awarded on technology for distance learning.

K-12 school administrators are still awaiting further federal guidance on policies and procedures related to ESSERF money. As mentioned previously, money is already available via funds allotted to the governors of the states. Administrators can pursue funds from their state’s governor’s office now. When ESSERF guidance is given, information should be available on the Office of Elementary & Secondary Education site and the Department of Education’s Coronavirus information page for schools.

HEERF money may be used _to purchase equipment or software, pay for online licensing fees, or pay for internet service to enable students to transition to distance learning._Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund

For post-secondary institutions, the CARES Act establishes and funds the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF), allowing institutions of higher education to use up to 50 percent of the funds they receive to cover any costs associated with significant changes to the delivery of instruction due to the coronavirus (also known as “Institutional Costs”). [NOTE: At least 50% of funds received must go to Emergency Financial Aid Grants to Students.]

HEERF money is allocated to schools pursuant to a formula largely based upon the number of Pell-eligible full-time students, as well as overall enrollment prior to COVID-19. The exact amount of allocations has already been published.

On April 21, 2020, the Department of Education issued further guidance on how HEERF money may be spent on institutional costs. For example, “[i]nstitutions may use the funds…to purchase equipment or software, pay for online licensing fees, or pay for internet service to enable students to transition to distance learning as such costs are associated with a significant change in the delivery of instruction due to the coronavirus.”

In a separate letter to college and university presidents, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos encouraged them “to use the portion of your award for Recipient’s Institutional Costs to expand your remote learning programs, build your IT capacity to support such programs, and train faculty and staff to operate effectively in a remote learning environment.”

Money earmarked for students was the first priority for HEERF money. Pursuant to the guidelines issued April 21, 2020, however, funds for institutional costs may now be requested. Grant resources, processes, forms, and guidance can be found on the Office of Postsecondary Education’s webpage.

The CARES Act - Perkins V ExtensionsPerkins V Extensions

While not related to the CARES Act, many educators may have questions about whether the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the timeline for Career and Technical Education (CTE) funding under Perkins V. The Department of Education has issued the following guidance regarding Perkins V funding deadlines:

  • State plans for fiscal years 2020-2023 were originally due April 15. State directors are encouraged to go ahead and submit their plans by this date if they are able.
  • If state directors are not able to submit their plans by April 15, an extension until June 15 has been given. Plans submitted by June 15 should receive approval by June 30 for July 1 disbursement.
  • For state directors unable to submit their plans by June 15, a further extension until September 15 will be given. In this case, disbursement will still occur on July 1, with the understanding that a plan will be submitted and adjustments made prior to the second disbursement date in October.

Most local applicants for state funds have a state deadline of July 1. The Department of Education is allowing states to extend this deadline to October 1. Educators should check with their individual SEAs regarding extensions of local Perkins V funding application deadlines.

How Amatrol Can Help

If you need help developing a program that will allow students to continue learning when social distancing measures prevent classes from meeting in person, contact the experts at Amatrol. With more than 30 years of experience creating quality eLearning curriculum, Amatrol remains the world’s leader in skills-based interactive technical learning.

The CARES Act | Amatrol eLearning & Virtual Trainers

Focusing on in-depth industrial knowledge and hands-on technical skills, Amatrol’s highly-interactive multimedia eLearning curriculum appeals to learners with different learning styles. Our extensive eLearning library features hundreds of courses offering thousands of hours of technical training for a vast array of subject areas.

Amatrol’s eLearning courses are self-directed and available online 24/7. Each course features a modular design that breaks down major topics into manageable segments, each with its own series of objectives, activities, skills, and self-reviews. This format gives learners the flexibility to set their own learning pace.

Amatrol’s eLearning is unique in its focus on teaching relevant hands-on skills using real industrial equipment like students will encounter on the job. With social distancing measures in place, it can be difficult to maintain this part of the curriculum, but it’s possible with Amatrol’s eLearning.

For example, Amatrol offers a variety of virtual trainers that simulate actual equipment, allowing students to replicate hands-on skills as if they were using real equipment. Virtual trainers are available for a variety of technical areas, including electrical, electronics, fluid power, machining, manufacturing processes, mechanical, and quality assurance.

Amatrol’s eLearning also features step-by-step instructions for all hands-on skills. This allows instructors to schedule equipment in a way that lets them control the number of students using the equipment at any one time, as well as to permit sufficient time between uses to clean the equipment.

Since students have step-by-step instructions to guide them, instructors don’t have to be present every minute of the day. No other eLearning curriculum provides instructors this kind of flexibility.

Don’t just take our word for it, though. Try it for yourself. Visit Amatrol’s eLearning page, click the “Request Info” button at the top of the page, and then fill out the “Contact Us” information on the right side of the page. In the “Message” box, simply indicate that you’re interested in a free eLearning demo and give us an idea of what subject areas you’re most interested in. It’s that simple!

The CARES ACT | Amatrol eLearning Demo

In the meantime, check out Amatrol’s eLearning video to see more samples of our many eLearning courses:

 

About Duane Bolin

Duane Bolin is a former curriculum developer and education specialist. He is currently a Marketing Content Developer for Amatrol, Inc. Learn more about Amatrol and its technical training solutions, including eLearning, here and connect with Duane on Amatrol’s Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube pages.

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