Last week the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) released its plan for the use of funds it received under the federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) enacted earlier this year. New Jersey was the recipient of more than $2.7 billion in Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief (ESSER) Funds under the ARP, the third major stimulus package enacted by Congress since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020. ARP ESSER provides direct aid to states and districts to help safely reopen and sustain the safe operation of schools and address the impact of COVID-19 on schools.
Under the ARP, at least 90% of any state’s allocation of ESSER funds must go directly to local school districts, with each state department of education having discretion over how the remaining 10% is spent. Districts were granted access to two-thirds of their individual allocations earlier this spring. However, the ARP ESSER funding was structured in such a way that districts would not have access to the remaining one-third until the U.S. Department of Education approved the NJDOE’s plan for the state set-aside portion of the ARP ESSER funds. That plan was approved in mid-August, so the department can now begin disbursing the remaining ESSER funds.
In a Broadcast Memo issued on Sept.15, the NJDOE informed districts that they will soon have access to the remaining ESSER funds and provided details on various new grant programs:
- Remaining one-third (1/3) of ARP ESSER Fund awards: Local education agencies (LEAs) are now able to access the full amount of their ARP ESSER award. LEAs that have already submitted an application for the first installment of their ARP ESSER Fund award will need to submit an amendment for the additional funds.
- Grants for otherwise unfunded entities: The NJDOE allocated approximately $14.1 million of the State’s ARP ESSER funds to non-Title I districts and other educational entities, including state agencies and public receiving schools, to aid their efforts to prepare for and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Accelerated Learning Coaching and Educator Support Grant: New Jersey allocated another $135.1 million in grants to LEAs to provide professional learning for educators and other school staff in skills and topics that will empower them to better meet the needs of their students. Each LEA will receive a minimum allocation of $50,000.
- Evidence-Based Summer Learning and Enrichment Activities Grant: Building on the progress of the ESSER II Learning Acceleration grant, this grant, totaling about $27.7 million, is designed to support research-based summer activities that reinforce the broader learning ecosystem of students, staff, and families. Each LEA will receive a minimum allocation of $40,000.
- Evidence-Based Comprehensive Beyond the School Day Activities Grant: Building on the progress of the ESSER II Learning Acceleration Grant, the $27.7 million for this grant is intended to provide resources for research-based academic enrichment activities during out-of-school time (e.g. before-school, after-school, weekends, and holiday breaks). Each LEA will receive a minimum allocation of $40,000.
- New Jersey Tiered System of Supports (NJTSS) Mental Health Support Staffing Grant: Finally, New Jersey directed $48 million to NJTSS Mental Health Support Staffing Grants to LEAs to aid in the development and implementation of Tier II (targeted, small group interventions) and Tier III (intensive interventions) services in accordance with a multi-tiered systems of support framework that addresses students’ and educators’ mental health and social emotional needs. Each LEA will receive the minimum allocation of $45,000.
Each school district can find out how much it is receiving in ARP ESSER funding, including how much they will be allocated under each of the grant programs described above, by clicking here.
Later this month, the department will open up the application process for these grants. The application deadline is Nov. 24, 2021. Additional information and guidance on ARP ESSER can be found on the NJDOE’s website here.