ESSER Funding FAQ

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General Information and District Eligibility

Q: Within the recently passed CARES Act, is their funding for education?

  • Yes. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed by President Trump on March 27, 2020. This Emergency Supplemental Funding is a relief package, not an education stimulus package. The bill includes $13.5 billion for elementary and secondary education formula grants. Additionally, there is a Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund that will also have an educational component, but more information will come from the Governor’s office.

Q: Is ESSER and CARES the same dollars?

  • The CARES Act has multiple grants and funds within the scope of the bill. ESSER Funds are what they are called in statute to prevent confusion.

Q: How much funding will North Dakota receive?

  • In response to interest in state grants under the CARES Act, the Congressional Research Service prepared estimated state allocations using the Title I funding formula. North Dakota’s estimated allocation for elementary/secondary education is $33 million.

Q: Will all districts receive funding?

  • SEAs are required to use the Title I funding formula to distribute these funds. Therefore, districts ineligible for Title I funding would not receive a grant. NDDPI is researching other sources of funding to assist the relatively small number of districts ineligible for this supplemental grant.

Q: Since these funds go to districts using the Title I funding formula, does that mean Title I regulations must be followed?

  • No. The Title I formula is used to distribute the funds; however, once the funding is granted to districts, it is not considered Title I funding.

Q: If a district receives Title IV funding, but not Title I, do they qualify for CARES Act funding?

  • No, however, the NDDPI anticipates being able to support all districts, even those that do not receive Title I funds.

Q: Is there funding distribution through Neglect and Delinquent (N&D) programs or does it use only the Title I formula?

  • Funds are only allocated through the Title I formula. Supporting N&D students would, however, be an allowable use of CARES Act funds.

Q: If a district uses REAP to combine all its Title programs into Title I, will it still receive Title II, or Title IV allocations?

  • These funds do not impact your formula Title funds (Title I, II, III, IV). Allocations are only based on the Title I formula used for 2019-2020.

Q: If free and reduced lunch numbers have increased in recent months, will the new numbers be reflected in CARES Act funding allocations?

  • Allocations were required to be only based on the Title I formula used for 2019-2020. Estimated Title I allocations do not equal CARES Act funds.

Q: If districts are in a Title I Cooperative, will estimated amounts be sent to both schools or just the fiscal agent?

  • Estimated allocations will be sent to both with each individual amount clearly indicated.

Q: If we know how much money the state will receive, and if we know our Title I formula, can NDDPI tell us what our allocation will be, even before we formally receive the funds?

  • NDDPI will be releasing allocation estimates by April 15, 2020.

Q: Does the CARES Act include a supplement, not supplant requirement?

  • No. Neither the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund nor the Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund includes a supplement not supplant requirement. However, these funds cannot be used to replace state aid. IF a district has additional costs (transportation, additional staff expenses) they could be paid with this fund.

Q: How can districts apply for these funds?

  • NDDPI must first apply for and receive approval from the U.S. Education Department (USED) for these dollars. The USED has informed SEAs they intend to release an application within the next few weeks for states to apply for these funds. The NDDPI is working to create an application and guidance so districts can apply for funding.

Q: Can LEAs use funds to reimburse expenses they are incurring now?

  • The USED has not yet announced how costs incurred prior to the passage of the CARES Act will be covered but has allowed for some level of coverage of pre-award costs under previous funding efforts.

Q: How long do districts have to spend these funds?

  • This emergency supplemental funding is a relief package that is meant to provide immediate relief to school districts. The funds must be spent by September 30, 2021.

Q: Will NDDPI provide a revenue code for accounting purposes for CARES Act funding?

  • Yes, information on coding will be included in the guidance as these funds must be tracked separately. 
    • Revenue Coding: 4590 – Other Restricted Federal Revenue 
    • Project Expense Coding: 104 – ESSER/CARES Funding

Q: Are there reporting requirements associated with the CARES Act funds?

  • The USED has not yet announced reporting requirements of the CARES Act funding. The NDDPI does not anticipate including requirements that are not required by the USED.

Q: When will we receive the Certification and Agreement package?

Following this training, all superintendents will receive a memo from Superintendent Baesler with the link to these documents. This will also be publicly available on the NDDPI website.

Q: Are the ESSER funds and timeline included in the plan for reopening the schools for the governor?  It seems difficult to re-open schools without the availability of these funds/resources.

  • A cross-state agency team has been established to create a state re-entry plan/guidance. School finance is a focus of this guidance.

Q: Is this webinar recorded for later viewing?

  • Yes, it is being recorded and will be available on the NDDPI website following the training.

Q: What is the definition of "contracts"?

  • A contract is when you pay for a service. For instance, if you pay for professional development.

Q: What will DPI's discretionary dollars be used for?

  • A statewide survey is being distributed to determine the use of these funds.

Q: When does the application process open?

  • It will be available at the conclusion of this training.

Q: Since it is the authorized representative filling out and submitting assurances, why are they going to superintendents? Or is it going to both?

  • Most often, the superintendent is the authorized representative of the district.

Q: Is there a deadline by which we must have this application submitted?

  • The deadline to apply for the ESSER funds is August 1, 2020.

Q: Can you clarify the funds question, will we have the funds in our account and just report how they are spent or will be like Title Funds, allocated to use and reimbursed through a draw down or request?

  • Districts receive these funds on a reimbursement basis. At no time are they deposited in a district’s local account.

Q: Will the amount change if we do not get the application in sooner than later?

  • No. The district allocation remains the same regardless of when the district submits the Certification and Agreement document.

Q: Do you fill this form out one time or each time you would like reimbursement?

  • This is a one-time Certification and Agreement. Once approved, each Superintendent and Business Manager will receive approval with information on signing the grant award and requesting reimbursement.

Q: Who can I contact at NDDPI with questions?

  • The NDDPI has created a section on the COVID-19 website to share information on these supplemental funds. The contact person at NDDPI is Laurie Matzke, Assistant Superintendent, (701) 328-2284.

Allowable Use of Funds

Q: How can districts use these funds?

  • LEAs can use the funds for any of the following:
    • Any activities authorized under ESSA, IDEA, Perkins, Subtitle B of McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, Adult Education and Family Literacy Act
    • Coordinate emergency response
    • Support local leaders
    • Ensure preparedness and coordination
    • Purchase cleaning supplies
    • Purchase educational technology
    • Mental health supports
    • Summer learning
    • Professional development
    • Distance learning

Q: If a district purchases technology equipment and/or cellular data for students who could not get internet service, is this an allowable use of funds?

  • Yes, this is an allowable use of CARES Act funds.

Q: Will districts be able to use CARES Act funds for salaries and/or benefits?

  • Yes, this is an allowable use of CARES Act funds.

Q: We have an afterschool program and prek program that has now had to either end (afterschool), or resulted in a reduced tuition amount for prek, due to online learning. These programs now will operate at a net loss. Can we use CARES Act funds to cover lost revenue?

  • Yes, this is an allowable use of CARES Act funds.

Q: I understand Pre-K salary would be allowable expense.  Is this also true for After School Program wages? Want to clarify, this would be for wages paid during the closure for After school program, NOT for a summer ASP program going forward.

  • Yes, these are both allowable expenses under ESSA.

Q: When completing the assurance that the district has kept staff employed, will coaches pay be part of the assurances?

  • The USED has not yet shared specific guidance or the LEA application at this time. The NDDPI will lean on that guidance to answer this question at that time.

Q: Can we utilize funds for parent or family engagement?

  • Absolutely and family engagement should be considered a priority.

Q: If we need to have students and staff wear masks, where would we claim this expense?

  • If you are unsure where to claim expenses, you can select the Other, with a justification.

Q: March 13th was our last day at school.  Is it correct that we can claim any allowable expenses after that date?

  • Correct.

Q: We are operating a no charge daycare for essential emergency workers can the costs for that be claimed?  If so, which category does that fall?

  • Yes. Any emergency costs can be claimed and would fall into the “other” category on the Use of Funds document (Appendix B).

Q: Our fee based before and after school program didn't operate and those employees filed for & received unemployment, are unemployment costs for that program eligible for this grant; what category would that be under?

  • Districts would not be able to use ESSER funds to pay employees who received unemployment benefits, however, if there were costs for the program that were not covered form another source, districts could use ESSER funds.  

Q: Because of the high cost resulting from the staffing needs and the manner in which meals were prepared and delivered our school lunch program lost money providing meals to students even after national school lunch program reimbursement.  Can the net loss (during the covid-19 emergency) in the lunch program be claimed with these funds? 

  • Yes, this would be allowable in the “other” category.

Q: Can CARES Act funding be used to pay unemployment claims from substitute teachers?

  • The USED has not yet shared specific guidance or the LEA application at this time. The NDDPI will lean on that guidance to answer this question at that time but anticipates that this will be an allowable expense.

Transportation

Q: We are running buses to deliver meals and homework and pick up assignments. Will we be compensated for those miles?

  • Federal CARES Act money may be used to reimburse districts’ transportation costs for those activities. State law does not provide for transportation payments beyond the cost of transporting students. When completing the 2019-20 transportation report, districts should report miles and rides for transportation routes through March 13, 2020.

 Q: Is the state willing to use a district’s mileage and rides information from the 2018-19 school year in budgeting for the 2020-2021 transportation payment?

  • State law specifies transportation reimbursement rates for school districts. (SB2013, Section 10, approved by the 2019 Legislature). Payments are made according to the number of miles traveled and the number of students transported. There is no provision for estimating or “pro-rating” transportation costs. The governor, the superintendent of public instruction, and the Legislature’s Budget Section cannot override those provisions. However, federal CARES Act money may be used to make up for transportation payments lost because of North Dakota’s school closings. When completing the 2019-20 transportation report, districts should plan to report miles and rides for transportation routes through March 13, 2020.

 Q: When can the Legislature revisit this issue?

  • The 2021 session begins Jan. 5. The Legislature has authority to make emergency appropriations. Gov. Burgum also has the option of calling a special session of the Legislature to deal with this issue and others.

Q: How do we categorize funds if we are using it to offset the shortage in transportation funding?

  • Funds for transportation would be coded to 12 - Other on the Use of Funds guidance (Appendix B).

Q: What would we check for food delivery service costs?

  • Funds for food delivery service would be coded to 12 - Other on the Use of Funds guidance (Appendix B).

 Q: Do you need to pay full bus contract amounts if you gave half payments while not running buses?

  • The CARES Act regulations requires districts receiving ESSER funds, the extend practicable, to continue to compensate contractors during closures related to COVID-19. If contractors receive partial funding form some other source, it would seem you would not need to provide them with full compensation. The law is asking districts to communicate with their contractors and come to an agreement about compensation that works for both parties.

Q: What if we have been giving half-payments (about a week and two days) to bus route contractors, but we would like to pay them in full?

  • Federal CARES Act relief funds may be used for this purpose.

Non-Public School Equitable Services and Eligibility

Q: Are non-public schools eligible for these funds?

  • LEAs that receive CARES Act Relief Funding must provide equitable services to non-public schools. Non-public schools are not eligible for funds; however, they are eligible for services. LEAs must retain control of the funding and items purchased with such funds. The funds can’t go directly to non-public schools.

Q: What services could be provided for non-public schools?

  • Non-public services could be provided in any of the following categories:
    • Any activities authorized under ESSA, IDEA, Perkins, Subtitle B of McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, Adult Education and Family Literacy Act
    • Coordinate emergency response
    • Support local leaders
    • Ensure preparedness and coordination
    • Purchase cleaning supplies
    • Purchase educational technology
    • Mental health supports
    • Summer learning
    • Professional development
    • Distance learning
    • A more in-depth listing can be found on the CARES Act Relief Funding webpage.

Q: As a non-public school, we do not receive transportation funds. We are using our bus to deliver meals during COVID-19 closure. Can the funds be used to pay for transportation for meals delivered?

  • Non-public schools do not receive funds, but are eligible to receive services from the LEA. Both entities would work in collaboration to budget for these services. Transportation fees would be an allowable use of CARES Act funding.

Q: Will non-public schools use NDDPI’s Grant Management System for this grant process?

  • Non-public schools do not receive funds, but will receive services from the LEA. You will work in collaboration to budget for these services but will not have to complete an application in the WebGrants system. There is the capability to provide viewing rights to the LEA application if that is decided during the consultation process.

Q: If a new non-public school has elected to participate in CARES Act services that has never participated in Title services before, is worksheet G for 19-20 still used?

  • Yes, and the LEA would need to provide Worksheet G to the NDDPI in order to determine the non-public schools equitable share for services.

Q: For Section 18002, are there funds available for non-public schools?

  • The CARES Act provides relief funding to LEAs through two separate funding streams. Section 18002 provides funding (a.k.a. Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund) flowing through the North Dakota Office of the Governor. Section 18003 provides funding (a.k.a. CARES Act Relief Funding) flowing through the NDDPI. Both funding streams allow for equitable services provided to non-public schools. Actual funding is not available for non-public school.

Q: Will private school estimated allocations for equitable services be posted on the NDDPI site?

  • Yes. Non-Public allocations are posted.

Q: Are colonies considered non-public schools for CARES Act funding?

  • No. Typically, these are schools are part of the public school structure.

Q: Are the allowable use of funds the same for the non-public?

  • Yes, please see Non-public Q&A from the USED.

Q: If a non-public school indicated it wanted to receive services in the 2020-2021 “Intent to Participate”, will this automatically qualify for CARES Act services?

  • No. The CARES Act Relief Funding “Intent to Participate” is different than the 2020-2021 “Intent to Participate” that is submitted for federal Title programs (i.e., Title I, Title II, Title IV).

Grant Management System

Q: In WebGrants, can more than one person from each school create a login to see results of grants or reports?

  • Yes. Grant recipients have the ability to add additional contacts to the grant in the WebGrants system.  These additional contacts can be within their own district or do not have to be.

Q: We are one of the 16 school districts that do not qualify for Title I funds. Do we still need to create an account on the WebGrants system, or will there be a different process for us?

  • Yes. The NDDPI anticipates being able to support all districts, even those that do not receive Title I funds, and those funds will still be dispersed through the WebGrants system.

Q: If a school has applied for the Comprehensive Literacy State Development (CLSD) grant, that school has already gone through this registration process, right?

  •  All WebGrants users must register and have their own user accounts. Those that participated in the application for CLSD grant or other programs currently within the grant system are already registered. Additional users from each district may want or need to register as well.

Q: If the Superintendent registered and listed the business manager as a secondary does the business manager still need to register?

  • Yes, all parties for this program need to register in WebGrants.

Q: When you refer to the "ledger report" what specifically are you looking for, the account listing that shows budget & expense listing?

  • Districts will need to maintain a local accounting detailed ledger to verify all expenditures are allowable.

Q: Can the application be modified after approval if the LEA's needs change and we want to spend on another allowable expense?

  • Yes. Any changes can be explained within the quarterly reports as no budget is required with the application process. This will be a one-time submission for the application. All allowable activities are listed in Appendix B of the application. No revisions will be made to the application. Adjustments can be noted in the quarterly reports.

Q: Is the WebGrants system the same as federal web grant system for applications?

  • No, WebGrants is NDDPI's Grant Management System.