FAQs

The U.S. Department of Education Use of Funds FAQ document is intended to answer Frequently Asked Questions about how funding under the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund, including the American Rescue Plan ESSER (ESSER III) program may be used in response to the impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic on students in pre-K–12 education.

LEAs are not required to provide equitable services under ESSER III. The ARP Act includes a separate program, the Emergency Assistance to Non-public Schools (ARP EANS). Additional ARP EANS program information is available on the U.S. Department of Education’s  American Rescue Plan Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools (ARP EANS) webpage.

  • Funds may be used for pre-award costs dating back to March 13, 2020, when the national emergency was declared;
  • Available for obligation by LEAs through September 30, 2024, which includes the Tydings period (General Education Provisions Act §421(b)(1)); and
  • Liquidated by: December 20, 2024.

ESSER III does not include a supplement, not supplant provision (SNS) providing additional flexibility in budgeting to meet the needs of addressing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

ESSER III does not include a maintenance of effort provision for LEAs.

The ARP Act (section 2004(b) and (c)) contains new maintenance of equity (MOEquity) provisions  for each Federal Fiscal Year 2022 and 2023 that are a condition for LEAs to receive funds under ESSER III. The U.S. Department of Education released MOEquity guidance for SEAs and LEAs as they implement these new requirements.  In addition, Appendix A includes information on baseline and initial MOEquity data that the NDE must submit by July 30, 2021 for FFY 2022.

LEAs must follow MOEquity and ensure that the highest-poverty schools are not disproportionately underfunded nor understaffed (in terms of FTEs).

As a condition of receiving funds under section 2001, LEAs shall not, in Federal Fiscal Years 2022 or 2023:

  1. Reduce per-pupil funding (from combined State and local funds) for any high-poverty schools served by such LEA by an amount that exceeds:
    1. the total reduction in LEA funding (from combined State and local funding) for all schools served by the LEA in such fiscal year (if any); divided by
    2. number of children enrolled in all schools served by the LEA in such fiscal year.
  2. Reduce per-pupil, full-time equivalent staff in any high-poverty school by an amount that exceeds:
    1. the total reduction in full-time equivalent staff in all schools served by such LEA in such fiscal year (if any); divided by
    2. the number of children enrolled in all schools served by the LEA in such fiscal year.

The 2020-2021 edition of the Nebraska School Districts Accounting Structure & Users’ Manual provides information on the appropriate accounting codes for ESSER III fund accounting.

All ESSER funds must be tracked separately.

Revenue Code: 4998

Receipts from the 2020-2021 ESSER III Supplemental Subgrant (ARP Act, 2021) for costs incurred through September 30, 2024 to address the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Only used in the General Fund, Special Building Fund and the School Nutrition Fund.

Disbursement Code: 6998

Expenditures supported by the 2020-2021 ESSER III Supplemental Subgrant (ARP Act, 2021) for costs incurred through September 30, 2024 to address the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Only used in the General Fund, Special Building Fund and the School Nutrition Fund.

LEAs will be required to provide reports to the NDE documenting the amount of ESSER III funds spent in each allowable use category. Details will be provided as they become available. In addition, LEAs are subject to monitoring processes.

With the passage of The American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act, states, districts, and schools now have significant federal resources available to implement evidence-based and practitioner-informed strategies to respond to students’ social, emotional, and academic needs and address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on underrepresented student groups (each major racial and ethnic group, children from low-income families, children with disabilities, English learners, gender, migrant students, students experiencing homelessness, and children and youth in foster care).

Of the total amount allocated to an LEA from the State’s ARP ESSER III award, LEAs must reserve at least 20 percent of funds to address learning loss through the implementation of evidence-based interventions for:

  1. Meeting students’ social, emotional, mental, and physical health, and academic needs, including through meeting basic student needs; reengaging students; and providing access to a safe and inclusive learning environment,
  2. Addressing the impact of COVID-19 on students’ most impacted and their opportunity to learn, including closing the digital divide; implementing strategies for accelerating learning; effectively using data; and addressing resource inequities ReferenceDefining Learning Loss); and
  3. Supporting educator and staff well-being and stability, including stabilizing a diverse and qualified educator workforce.

Evidence-based educational intervention resources are accessible through the USED from the National Center for Educational Evaluation and Regional Assistance. LEAs that identify interventions from one of the clearinghouse websites or resources identified through the NDE are not required to provide research to the NDE relevant to the level of evidence of the intervention (Strong evidence, moderate evidence, promising evidence, or demonstrates a rationale) recognized by the Every Student Succeeds Act.

If ESSER III funds are budgeted for evidence-based interventions not from the USED clearinghouse websites or NDE evidence-based interventions identified, the LEA will upload research evidence through the upload feature of the second part of the ARP ESSER III GMS application process. The federal Evidence-Based Interventions (I think Lane has an updated document) guidance assists with steps in evaluating if interventions are supported by ‘strong’ evidence.

If ESSER III funds will be used to purchase core instructional materials for ELA, mathematics, or science, the district will be required to show that the instructional materials are aligned to the Nebraska State Standards and Key Instructional Shifts. Information about alignment is available through the Nebraska Instructional Materials Collaborative and EdReports.

For information on core instructional materials, see the  High Quality Instructional Materials Information. The spreadsheet includes three tabs: ELA instructional materials, mathematics instructional materials, and science instructional materials and is organized by grade bands (K-5, 6-8, and 9-12).

Materials with a rating of “Meets” meet the expectations for alignment and are pre-approved as an ESSER expenditure. Materials with a “Does Not Meet” rating do not meet expectations for alignment and will not be approved as an ESSER expenditure. Materials with a “Partially Meets” rating or not listed will be subject to additional review by NDE staff prior to approval.  More information will be required on the second part of the ESSER III application in regard to the materials selected.

An LEA must include specific information that addresses how it will maintain student and staff health and safety and how it will ensure continuity of services for academic and social-emotional needs, as well as how it meets CDC guidance, to the greatest extent practicable. 

The LEA awarded ESSER III funds must develop or revise a Plan for Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services, including those that have already returned to in-person instruction. An LEA must include in its plan under section 2001(i) of the ARP Act of 2021 (H.R.1319) the following:

  1. IN GENERAL – An LEA receiving funds under this section shall develop and make publicly available on the LEA’s website, no later than 30 days after receiving the allocation of funds; the date the ARP ESSER application is approved and/or the Grant Award Notification (GAN) date. Section 2001(i)(1).
  2. COMMENT PERIOD – Before making the plan publicly available the LEA shall seek public comment on the plan (e.g., by requesting input on website) and take such comments into account. Section 2001(i)(2).
  3. PLAN CONTENTS – An LEA must describe in its plan under USED Interim Final Requirements (IFR) of the ARP Act for the safe return to in-person instruction and continuity of services:
    1. How the LEA will maintain the health and safety of students, educators, and other school and LEA staff, and the extent to which it has adopted policies, and a description of any such policies, on each of the CDC’s safety recommendations including:
      1. Universal and correct wearing of masks,
      2. Modifying facilities to allow for physical distancing (e.g., use of cohorts/podding),
      3. Handwashing and respiratory etiquette,
      4. Cleaning and maintaining healthy facilities, including improving ventilation,
      5. Contact tracing in combination with isolation and quarantine, in collaborations with the state, local, territorial, or Tribal health departments
      6. Diagnostic and screening testing;
      7. Efforts to provide vaccinations to school communities;
      8. Appropriate accommodations for children with disabilities with respect to health/safety policies; and
      9.  Coordination with State and local health officials.  Including the needs for support and technical assistance to implement strategies consistent to the greatest extent practicable, with relevant CDC guidance.

Note: The requirement does not mandate that an LEA adopt the CDC guidance, but only requires that the LEA describe in its plan the extent to which it has adopted the key prevention and mitigation strategies identified in the guidance.

    1. How the LEA will ensure continuity of services, including but not limited to services to address students’ academic needs and students’ and staff social emotional, mental health, and other needs, which may include student health and food services.
  1. PLAN ACCESSIBILITY – Under USED Interim Final Requirements the plan must:
    1. be accessible and publicly available on the LEA’s website,
    2. in an understandable and uniform format, and available to all,
    3. may require written or oral translations for non-English speakers, and
    4. Upon request, provided in an accessible format for individuals with disabilities.
  1. PREVIOUS PLANS – If an LEA has developed a plan for the safe return to in-person instruction before the date of the enactment of the ARP Act:
    1. that meets the statutory requirements (sought public comment on the plan, took such comments into account in the development of the plan, and is publicly available on the LEA’s website), then such plan shall be deemed to satisfy the requirement under section 2001(i)(3).
    2. Under the USED IFR, such plans that meet the statutory requirements but does not address all the CDC requirements in the ‘PLAN CONTENTS’ section of this document, the school district must revise to include these elements and re-post its plan no later than six months after receiving its ESSER III funds (date of the GAN) per the ‘PLAN REVISIONS’ section requirements to meet these provisions.
  1. PLAN REVISIONS – During the period of the ARP ESSER award (through September 30. 2023), an LEA must regularly, but no less than every six months (taking into consideration the timing of significant changes to CDC guidance on reopening schools), review and as appropriate, revise its plan under USED IFR.
    1. In determining whether revisions are necessary, and in making any revisions, the LEA must: seek public input, and take such input into account.
    2. If at the time the LEA revises its plan the CDC has updated its guidance on reopening schools, the revised plan must address the extent to which the LEA has adopted policies, and describe any such policies, for each of the updated safety recommendations.
    3. ESSER III funds are subject to the Tydings amendment and are therefore available to LEAs for obligation through September 30, 2024. Review/revisions are not required during the Tydings period.
    4. Revisions be made publicly available on the LEA’s website.
  1. DOCUMENT RETENTION FOR PROGRAMMATIC MONITORING – LEA’s will maintain documentation locally and the NDE will programmatically monitor plans for the above requirements. The school district agrees to:
    1. keep records of the people involved in writing the plan,
    2. input received about the plan,
    3. changes to the plan,
    4. policies referenced within the plan, and
    5. screenshots of where the plan is posted on the website.

To assist LEAs with the development of their Safe Return Plan, the NDE is providing the following template.

The U.S. Department of Education has released two informational documents:

Volume 1 – 2021 ED COVID-19 Handbook Strategies for Safely Reopening Elementary and Secondary Schools

Volume 2 – 2021 ED COVID-19 Handbook Roadmap to Reopening Safely and Meeting All Students’ Needs

An LEA awarded ESSER III funds agrees to develop a plan to ensure transparency and accountability for use of the funds to address their students’ academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs, in particular those students most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Under 20 U.S.C. 1221e-3, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education (USED) has the authority to promulgate rules governing the programs administered by the Department. Through the USED Interim Final Requirements (IFR), an LEA must include in its LEA ARP ESSER Plan the following:

  1. IN GENERAL – An LEA receiving funds under this section shall develop, submit to the NDE (through part 2 of the grant application opening mid-July), and make publicly available on the school district’s website, no later than 90 days after receiving the allocation of funds; the date the ARP ESSER application is approved and/or the Grant Award Notification (GAN) date, a plan for the LEA’s use of ARP ESSER funds.
  2. STAKEHOLDER CONSULTATION – Under this requirement, an LEA must engage in meaningful consultation with stakeholders and the opportunity to provide input in the plan development.
    1. Specifically, an LEA must engage in meaningful consultation with
      1. students;
      2. families;
      3. school and district administrators (including special education administrators); and
      4. teachers, principals, school leaders, other educators, school staff, and their unions.
    2. Additionally, an LEA must engage in meaningful consultation with each of the following, to the extent present in or served by the LEA:
      1. Tribes;
      2. civil rights organizations (including disability rights organizations); and
      3. stakeholders representing the interests of children with disabilities, English learners, children experiencing homelessness, children in foster care, migratory students, children who are incarcerated, and other underserved students.
  3. COMMENT PERIOD – Before making the plan publicly available the LEA shall seek public comment on the plan (e.g., by requesting input on its website) and take such comments into account in the development of the plan.
  4. CONTENTS – The LEA ARP ESSER plan ensures that LEAs are using ARP ESSER funds for their intended purposes and evaluate the effectiveness. The NDE may prescribe additional requirements to ensure ARP ESSER funds are meeting the needs of Nebraska schools, students, and teachers. For example, the NDE might require that the plan include data that illustrates the LEA’s most pressing needs or descriptions of promising practices that the LEA has implemented to accelerate learning. The plan and any revisions to the plan must include at a minimum a description of:
    1. How the funds will be used to implement prevention and mitigation strategies, consistent with the most recent CDC guidance, in order to continuously and safely open and operate schools for in-person learning;
    2. How the LEA will use the funds it reserves to address the academic impact of lost instructional time through the implementation of evidence-based interventions, such as summer learning or summer enrichment, extended day, comprehensive after school programs, or extended school year (consistent with the requirement of the ARP Act that each LEA reserve at least 20 percent of its ARP ESSER funds for that purpose);
    3. How the LEA will spend its remaining funds consistent with the ARP Act,
    4. How the LEA will ensure that the interventions that are implemented will address the academic impact of lost instruction time and will respond to the academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs of all students, including students from low-income families, students of color, English learners, children with disabilities, students experiencing homelessness, children in foster care, and migratory students, and
    5. Include data that illustrates the LEA’s most pressing needs or descriptions of promising practices that the LEA has implemented to accelerate learning.
  1. PLAN ACCESSIBILITY – The plan must:
    1. Be accessible and publicly available on the LEA’s website,
    2. In an understandable and uniform format, and available to all,
    3. May require written or oral translations for non-English speakers, and
    4. Upon request, provided in an accessible format for individuals with disabilities.
  2. PLAN SUBMISSION & REVISIONS – The initial LEA ARP ESSER plan will be submitted through a GMS (Part 2) ARP ESSER grant application process.
    1. During the period of the ARP ESSER award (through September 30. 2023), an LEA must regularly review and as appropriate, revise its plan.
    2. Submission procedures for plan revisions will be established by the NDE.
    3. ARP ESSER funds are subject to the Tydings amendment and are therefore available to LEAs for obligation through September 30, 2024. Review and revisions, if necessary, are not required during the Tydings period.
    4. Revisions made publicly available on the LEA’s website.
  1. DOCUMENT RETENTION FOR PROGRAMMATIC MONITORING – LEA’s will maintain documentation locally and the NDE will monitor Return to In-Person Instruction Plans for the above requirements. The school district agrees to:
    1. keep records of the people involved in writing the plan,
    2. collaboration and general comment input required for the initial development of the plan,
    3. changes to the plan, and
    4. screenshots of where the plan is posted on the website.

LEAs will be responsible for supporting evidence and documentation of expenditures for reporting, audit, and reimbursement purposes. Financial records, supporting (primary) documents, and all documentation of reasonable, necessary, and allocable aspects must be retained for a period of three years from the date of submission of the final expenditure report. If a litigation, claim, or audit is started before the expiration of the 3-year period, the records must be retained until all litigation, claims, or audit findings involving the records have been resolved and final action is taken. 2 CFR § 200.334 – Retention Requirements for Records.

All capital expenditures using ESSER funds must be approved by the NDE to be considered an eligible use of funds. To help facilitate this approval process, please complete and submit the Capital Asset Non-Construction Form or Capital Asset Construction (HVAC, Remodel) Form to utilize ESSER III funds for capital asset purchases or projects. An approval form must be filled out for each capital expenditure your district would like to use ESSER funds for. For the ESSER Grants, “capital expenditure” is defined as follows: A construction project or individual non-consumable item that: 1) Has a useful life of more than one year; and 2) Costs greater than $5,000.

Note: If your district has already received approval for a capital expenditure via email, you do not need to fill out an Approval Form for that expenditure. Instruction review is recommended and the Fact Sheet section of this document.

With ESSER funds available for reimbursement, the ESSER Resources: Expense Reimbursement guidance, provides subrecipients with information that will support successful preparation for requesting reimbursement of ESSER funds.

ARP ESSER funds are subject to all applicable provisions of the Education Department General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR) and Uniform Grant Guidance (UGG). LEAs should be aware of cash management (2 CFR § 200.305(b)) and other post federal award requirements in 2 CFR part 200, subpart DNote: Due to the amount of funding provided, additional LEAs may fall within the single audit threshold (i.e., expending $750,000 or more of federal funds during the fiscal year). Federal regulation technical assistance is available on the Grants Management Fiscal Monitoring Webpage.

Updated June 28, 2021 9:22am