Access our ESSER Federal Funding FAQ — Get Answers Now >>

Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Federal Funding Overview

What does ESSER stand for?

What ESSER funds are available to K-12 schools in response to the pandemic?

In addition to addressing learning loss, what can ESSER funds be used for?

What else might school and district leaders need to know about ESSER or GEER?


What does ESSER stand for?

Since March 2020, the federal government has passed three relief packages in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that includes unprecedented support for K–12 schools. This support is called ESSER, which is an acronym for Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief.

Combined, the legislation provides more than $193 billion in aid to state education agencies (SEAs) which must sub-award 87.5 - 90% to school districts. An additional $9.7 billion has been directed to governors to spend at their discretion and support private schools. The majority of relief funds will be disbursed based on the proportion of Title I funds a state or district received in the most recent fiscal year. Relief Funds and Title I Funds are otherwise unrelated.

Legislation for ESSER I funding was passed in March 2020. Legislation for ESSER II funding was passed in December 2020. Legislation for ESSER III funding was passed in March 2021.

What ESSER funds are available to K-12 schools in response to the pandemic?

Name of the Legislation Amount Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund Timeline
Coronavirus Aid, Relief & Economic Security (CARES) Act
(ESSER I Fund)
passed March 2020
$13.2 billion $3 billion Sept. 30, 2022
Coronavirus Response & Relief Supplemental Appropriations
(CRRSA) Act
(ESSER II Fund)
passed December 2020
$54 billion $4 billion
*$2.7 billion of this allocated to Emergency Assistance for Nonpublic Schools (EANS)
Sept. 30, 2023
American Rescue Plan
(ESSER III Fund)
passed March 2021
$126 billion $2.75 billion
All for private schools
Sept. 30, 2023

Each plan delivers more funding than the one before it, with ESSER II providing four times what schools received through the original CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan providing more than double the funds provided through ESSER II.

SEAs and school districts may use the funds for any activity permitted under other federal education laws (think any activity allowed under ESEA, IDEA, AEFLA, Perkins, or McKinney-Vento Title VIIB). Funds can be used for pre-award costs dating back to March 13, 2020.

As a leader in quality, research-based professional development for educators, Solution Tree welcomes the opportunity to design meaningful customized professional learning experiences that meet the intent of federal education funding and the specific needs of schools in the COVID-19 environment. All Solution Tree products and services meet the definition of eligible expenses under ESSER I and II and the American Rescue Plan. The table below highlights activities emphasized under the new legislation and provide a few examples of Solution Tree offerings that align with those activities.

In addition to addressing learning loss, what can ESSER funds be used for?

ESSER Funding Focus Area Solution Tree Professional Learning Alignment
Activities to address learning loss, including high-quality assessments to determine academic needs, evidence-based interventions, assistance to parents and families on how to support students, and tracking attendance and engagement in distance education.
Activities to address the unique needs among low-income students, English learners, racial and ethnic minorities, homeless students, disabled students, and youth living in foster care.
Providing principals and other school leaders with the resources necessary to address the needs of their individual schools.

What else might school and district leaders need to know about ESSER or GEER?

  • At least 20% of American Rescue Plan funds must be used to address learning loss through evidence-based interventions that respond to students’ academic, social, and emotional needs.
  • The legislative intent of funds is to benefit all public schools and students regardless of school type. Therefore, even if particular legislation does not directly address charter schools that are not a standalone district, funding is allowable for any public school.
  • Only ESSER I requires equitable services to nonpublic schools (private schools are provided support through GEER the allocation to governors in ESSER II and the American Rescue Plan).
  • Money from each plan must be tracked separately by SEAs and districts.
  • Funds cannot be used for state budget shortfalls. There are other relief dollars for shortfalls.
  • A portion of American Rescue Plan funds will go to challenge grants focused on educational equity.
  • Solution Tree has created an ESSER Funding Guide. Design meaningful customized professional learning experiences that meet the intent of federal education funding and the specific needs of schools in the COVID-19 environment with the help of Solution Tree.