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Education Stabilization Funds in the CARES Act: What it means for Nebraska

As our state continues to grapple with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the normal operations of Nebraska's education system have been severely interrupted. In Nebraska's school districts, teachers face the challenge of keeping students engaged through distance learning. The CARES Act, signed into law last month, recognizes the urgency of our nation’s educational needs and earmarks $30.75 billion of Education Stabilization Funds for relief to help states' education systems recover. At the federal level, the dollars will be distributed through three funding streams:

  • $13.5 billion dedicated to K-12 elementary and secondary education relief
  • $14.25 billion dedicated to higher education emergency relief
  • $3 billion in flexible funding for governors to distribute to local education agencies most significantly impacted or deemed essential for emergency educational services

 

Nebraska will receive:

  • $66.9 million for K-12 schools: These funds can be used to address long-term school closures, cleaning and sanitizing schools, purchasing educational technology, providing mental health supports and other activities authorized by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2018 and the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. 
  • $71.5 million for higher education institutions: Funds will be distributed directly to higher education institutions using a formula based on student enrollment. These institutions will be able to use their own discretion on how to distribute funding. The only statutory requirement stipulates that funds to be used to cover expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to COVID-19. Institutions must sign and return a Certificate of Funding and Agreement on the grants.gov website.
  • $16.4 million in flexible funds for the Governor to distribute at his discretion for education-related activities: The Governor may authorize grants to local education agencies most significantly impacted or deemed essential for emergency educational services.

 

What does this mean for Nebraska’s early childhood programs?

While the Education Stabilization funds are intended to directly reinforce K-12 and higher education institutions, these resources also affect early childhood programs in every part of the state. CARES Act funding can be used to help schools address the needs of children in school-based preschool programs, particularly children in low-income families, children with disabilities, English language-learners, as well as those experiencing homelessness or in foster care—many of whom may be in school-based preschool programs. Schools may also use this funding to partner with other organizations and nonprofits to address community needs. As further guidance is issued, communities should work directly with their local school districts to determine if the costs of early childhood services are an allowable expense of the CARES Act coronavirus relief funding.

For early childhood teachers and providers who have TEACH grants, the CARES Act waives a requirement that teachers must serve consecutive years to be eligible for Teacher Loan Forgiveness. Due to disruptions caused by the pandemic, it is not mandatory that this term of service be uninterrupted.

The Education Stabilization Funds in the CARES Act will provide urgent and much-needed relief for Nebraska’s education system at all levels to meet the significant COVID-19-related challenges facing early education, K-12 schools and higher education. 

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