The Murphy administration announced plans on Feb. 19 to spend $1.2 billion in federal COVID relief funds to address the academic and mental health impacts of the pandemic on New Jersey students and educators. 

As part of an initiative the governor is calling “The Road Forward,” the funds will be made available to districts, including grants dedicated specifically to research-based instructional and mental health interventions. 

“We know our students and educators have had a difficult year,”Murphy said Friday.  “Providing our school communities with increased flexibility and support is essential to move our education system forward. The additional federal funds will allow districts to best meet the individual needs of their students during this challenging time.”  

“Educators and students have endured a great deal over the past eleven months,” said Acting Commissioner Angelica Allen-McMillan“These additional federal funds will support targeted initiatives to enhance academic enrichment and mental health interventions for all students and educators.” 

Further details of “The Road Forward” plan appear below: 

Making Federal Funding Available to Districts On March 15, the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) will release applications for $1.2 billion in federal ESSER II funds (Federal Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021, Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund). The funds will be distributed as follows: 

  • As required by legislation, a minimum of 90% of New Jersey’s ESSER II funds will be allocated to local education agencies (LEAs) in the same proportion as those funds received under Part A of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended, in school year 2020-2021.  
  • Two grant opportunities will provide a total of $105 million to support districts in providing additional academic and mental health supports. They include:  
    • $75 million Learning Acceleration Grant: 75of a district’s allocation will be used to support research-based academic enrichment activities, such as one-on-one intensive tutoring and summer learning academies, and 25% will be used for strategies to support the broader learning ecosystem. 
    • $30 million Mental Health Grant: Funds will be used to assist districts in implementing school-based mental health supports for all students and educators. These grants will assist school districts in building a tiered, sustainable intervention model of comprehensive mental health supports and services. 
  • The NJDOE will use ESSER II State set-aside funds to provide assistance to non-Title I LEAs, County Special Services School Districts, Education Services Commissions, Jointure Commissions, Division of Children and Families, Department of Corrections, Juvenile Justice Commission, and the Juvenile Detention Centers.  

For additional information, including district allocations, please see the NJDOE’s Feb. 19, 2021 broadcast memo. To assist districts in leveraging these federal funds effectively, the NJDOE has posted to its website a clearinghouse of successful practices that New Jersey school districts have identified as notable achievements in mitigating the challenges posed by COVID-19. These district-reported successes are categorized by county, district size, and topic area to facilitate meaningful collaboration and learning opportunities between similarly-situated districts.