As U.S. schools plan for their future, the American Rescue Plan has designated assistance for State and Local Education Agencies (SEAs and LEAs) through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund.

Two-thirds of ARP ESSER funds – $81 billion – have already been distributed. The remaining third will be distributed once the state plans are approved. To date, every state has submitted their funding plan; six states and the District of Columbia have had their plans approved.

The Department of Education states that “plans detail how states are currently using and intend to use ARP ESSER funds to safely reopen and sustain the safe operation of schools and classrooms and address the needs of students, including by equitably expanding opportunity for students disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.” Have you seen your state’s plan? Early Head Start and Head Start agencies may have the opportunity to tap into this funding. Due to their income status and the greater likelihood of being Black or Hispanic, many Head Start students and their families have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic – consider how this funding may support their needs. Your Head Start State Collaboration Director can be a resource to learn about the opportunities for funding and/or partnership opportunities with your local education agency (LEA).

According to the FAQ on ESSER funding, LEAs may use ESSER and a pre-kindergarten or other early childhood education program, including:

“(1) a Head Start program or an Early Head Start program carried out under the Head Start Act (42 U.S.C. 9831 et seq.), including a migrant or seasonal Head Start program, an Indian Head Start program, or a Head Start program or an Early Head Start program that also receives State funding;

(2) a State licensed or regulated child care program; or

(3) a program that serves children from birth through age six that addresses the children’s cognitive (including language, early literacy, and early mathematics), social, emotional, and physical development; and is either: a State prekindergarten program; a program authorized under section 619 or Part C of the IDEA (see FAQ C-5); or a program operated by an LEA. (See section 8101(16) of the ESEA.) In addition, ESSER funds may be used for other activities that are necessary to maintain the operation of and continuity of services in LEAs and continuing to employ existing staff of the LEA. As a result, ESSER funds could be used to prevent layoffs or service cuts to existing LEA early childhood education programs.”

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