Only seven of 40 states that have submitted American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) state plans have been accepted at this writing. And none specifically mention using funds to support transportation operations, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
The DOE announced last week that funds were distributed to the seven approved ARP ESSER state plans. Earlier this year, the DOE distributed two-thirds of the ARP ESSER, $81 billion, to the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The remaining $40.5 billion will be funded to states as plans are approved.
Plans were approved on July 7 for Arkansas, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Washington, D.C.
State Distribution Amounts
Rhode Island: $138,468,766
South Dakota: $127,339,745
Washington, D.C.: $128,932,230
The ARP ESSER funds are designed to support the safe reopening of K-12 Schools to help meet the needs of all students. As School Transportation News previously reported, the approved use of the funds includes social distancing and safety protocols on buses. However, a recent STN reader survey found that 77 percent of 109 respondents will not be continuing with social distancing on school buses when the new school year starts. However, 57 percent of the same respondents stated they will be cleaning school buses at the same frequency that was done during the pandemic.
A press release from the DOE states that it is reviewing the plans “expeditiously” and is in contact with state officials. The common reason for the delay in states that have not yet submitted plans is due to the state boards of education or legislative review requirements.
Related: COVID-19 Protocols on School Buses Eligible for American Rescue Plan Funds
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Related: Federal Infrastructure Funds for Electric School Buses Continue to Dwindle
Related: COVID-19 Funding Relief Finally Coming for Private School Bus, Motorcoach Industries
Related: Federal School Bus STOP Act Included in House, Senate Transportation Reauthorization Bills
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said that the approval of these plans enables states to receive funds to quickly and safely reopen schools for full-time, in-person learning. The funds also help districts meet students’ academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs as well as address disparities in educational access to opportunities that were exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
The current state plans approved are focused on safely reopening for in-person learning five days a week, and addressing the loss of instructional time due to COVID-19 with summer school programs and after-school activities. State plans also mention the need to address student and staff mental and emotional health.
Editor’s Note: As of July 15, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, and West Virginia state plans were also approved.