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Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act: Federal CARES Act


The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was enacted on March 27, 2020 - a $2 trillion package of assistance measures that include direct payment to families, loans for small businesses, supports for businesses and funding for education. Information on the four education funding streams from the CARES Act is provided here: the Coronavirus Relief Fund, the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund, Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund and nutrition.

CARES Act Education Funding: Coronavirus Relief Fund, Elementary & Secondary Education Emergency Relief Fund, Governor's Emergency Education Relief Fund and Nutrition Funding.

Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF)

The CARES Act established the $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund
to support states with expenses due to the public health emergency with
respect to the COVID–19 incurred from March 1, 2020, to Dec. 30, 2020.
On May 18, Gov. Polis signed Executive Order 20-070, which directed the
transfer of $510 million from the State of Colorado’s CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund
to the Colorado Department of Education to be awarded to school districts, the
Charter School Institute, the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind and facility
schools on a per pupil basis. Additionally, each BOCES in the state will receive $25,000.
Addendum A to the Executive Order outlines the allowable uses for the CRF funds.
Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) and the Coronavirus Relief Fund. Initially, recipients of these funds were requested to complete a Notice of Award (NOA). This has been replaced by an online CARES Act Certification Form. Districts, facility schools, and BOCES that have not yet submitted a Notice of Award, must submit the Certification Form. Recipients that previously submitted the NOA do not need to complete the Certification Form.
Additionally, all recipients of these funds are requested to notify the State of Colorado of their intent to use all or a portion of the allocated funds by Friday, July 10. Recipients will need to identify any funding that they are unable to use for allowable expenditures so that these funds can be returned and reallocated to other recipients.
Instructions for this notification will be distributed next week.


Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER)

The CARES Act established the Education Stabilization Fund, which is allocated according to the following percentages:

  • 43.9% to the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund ($13.23 billion)
  • 9.8% to the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund ($2.95 billion)
  • 46.3% to the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund ($13.95 billion)

Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund dollars are appropriated to state education agencies (SEAs) based on the 2019-20 Title I shares, with 90% to be allocated to local education agencies (LEAs) that received a Title I allocation in the most recent fiscal year and the remaining 10% for an SEA reserve fund. LEA allocations will be calculated using the Title I formula; however, relief funds will not be subject to Title I requirements.

Colorado has been allocated $120,993,782 from the U.S. Department of Education from the ESSER Fund. Of the total allocation to Colorado, CDE must allocate a minimum of $108,894,404 (90%) to local education agencies (LEAs) and may reserve no more than $12,099,378 (10%). Of the state reserve, CDE may use no more than $604,969 (half of 1%) for administrative purposes. The 10% SEA reserve is to be used for emergency needs as determined by the SEA to address issues related to COVID-19, which may be addressed through the use of grants or contracts.

Governor's Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER)

The CARES Act included $3 billion for a Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund. Colorado has been allocated a little over $44 million from the GEER fund. GEER funds are flexible and are able to be used at the discretion of governors. GEER funds can be used to provide emergency support through:

  • grants to local educational agencies;
  • institutions of higher education;
  • other education-related entities deemed essential for carrying out emergency education services;
  • any purpose under most federal education legislation; or
  • the provision of child care and early childhood education, social and emotional support and the protection of education-related jobs.

On June 4, 2020, Governor Jared Polis announced plans for GEER funds:

  • Close to $33 million in grants to school districts, public schools, public institutions of higher education, and other education-related entities to support equity and innovation to address the COVID-19 crisis.  The grant program called the Response, Innovation, and Student Equity (RISE) Education Fund will be accepting applications this fall..
  • $5-6 million for dramatically increasing capacity for Colorado Empowered Learning.
  • $3 million investment in educator recruitment and retention to provide stability for school districts through the Quality Teacher Recruitment program.

Nutrition Funding

CDE School Nutrition Unit has administered the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP), Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and Emergency Feeding efforts throughout the coronavirus pandemic. CDE was allocated $143,151,717 through the FY2020 CARES Act for all meal reimbursement from March 2020 through September 2020. These funds supplement food service programs through meal reimbursement and relieve financial burden on Colorado’s school districts.