COVID relief funds used to support students, educators

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic rippled out into nearly every aspect of our lives, and public education was no exception. Michigan’s students and educators have faced unprecedented challenges in the aftermath of extended periods of remote learning and emotional trauma inflicted by a worldwide pandemic.

To help alleviate the impact and ensure our neighborhood schools receive the support they need, the federal government approved $5.55 billion in school rescue funds for Michigan, often referred to as “ESSER” or “COVID relief.” Most of this money was delivered by President Biden’s American Rescue Plan. Educators across the state quickly got to work, using the funds in creative and effective ways to support students and school employees.

This money was split into multiple phases, each with similar allowable uses but different expenditure deadlines, ranging from September 2022 to September 2024. Each local school district was allocated a portion of these school rescue funds and charged with deciding how to best use the money to fit their unique needs.

The nearly complete local control over this money means MEA members have been working tirelessly to ensure school rescue funds are spent wisely and effectively.

Expanding mental health services, implementing tutoring programs, improving infrastructure and right-sizing educator pay have topped the list of priorities in many schools throughout the state.

The COVID-19 pandemic not only created new challenges for public education, but it also shone a spotlight on long-existing issues due to chronic underfunding and brought these shortfalls to the forefront of conversations. Direct input from communities, students and educators who are intimately familiar with the needs of their schools has led to innovative and impactful programs that otherwise would not have been possible.

Michigan schools have spent $2.88 billion in school rescue funds, with $2.67 billion still available. A portion of this funding will expire in September of this year, but the bulk of the remaining money will be available until September 2024.

To see how much money your school district has left, visit the Michigan Department of Education COVID-19 Spend Dashboard.

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