How schools can apply federal COVID-19 relief money
AIA partner Excel Dryer explains how two programs within the pandemic stimulus bills can be used to upgrade K-12 schools and universities.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, the United States Congress has passed three main stimulus bills—which have become law—that provide funding for response and relief efforts related to the disease.
These three bills—the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, (CARES); the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 (CRRSAA); and the American Rescue Plan Act (ARP)—have received a lot of media attention. But hidden within all the complicated legalese are two programs that schools can leverage to make important hygiene upgrades in their facility’s restrooms.
Elementary and secondary education
These bills provided a total of $190.5 billion to the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund, which is a grant program meant to provide local educational agencies (LEAs), or school districts, with COVID-19 relief funds. Each bill created its own iteration of the ESSER fund, each with its own funding.
The ESSER funds work like this: States receive funds from the federal Department of Education based on the same proportion that each state received under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Title-IA. Under the most recent iteration created by the ARP, known as ESSER III, state educational agencies (SEAs) must hold on to 7% of their allocation to “carry out activities” and up to 0.5% for emergency COVID-19 relief. LEAs must reserve 20% of their individual funding to address learning loss but as a group must receive a minimum of 90% of the state’s total allocation.
But how does an LEA receive these funds? First, they must apply to the relevant SEA. For example, school districts in Massachusetts would apply to the Massachusetts Department of Education. According to the Massachusetts DOE, the ESSER III program runs through September 30, 2024. The way that SEAs allocate funds may differ from state to state.
The law also created funding opportunities for institutions of higher education through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, or HEERF. Like ESSER, there have been multiple iterations of HEERF—with the ARP most recently creating HEERF III. This most recent fund combined any remaining money from HEERF II while also adding an additional $30 billion for higher education institutions and students, which is available through September 30, 2023.
HEERF III funds require that 50% of an institution’s given allocation must be spent on student grants, except for for-profit institutions, which must spend all their allocations on student grants.
According to the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, applications are not required to receive HEERF III funds if an institution received HEERF II funds; and applications for HEERF II funds were not required if an institution received HEERF I funds. All application deadlines for HEERF III funds passed in early March, except for Supplemental Support under the ARP, which had a deadline of April 8, 2022. Here is a list of HEERF III recipients, and you can find instructions for applying for the Supplemental Support program here.
Hand hygiene in restrooms
As schools make improvements and renovations, one consideration is how to encourage proper hand hygiene in restrooms. Just as important as washing is drying. An independent study from the University of Auckland found that wet hands have been shown to be 1,000 times more likely to transfer germs than dry hands.
Touchless hand dryers can play a role. The World Health Organization recommended that everyone “frequently clean [their] hands…” and “dry [them] thoroughly by using paper towels or a warm air dryer.” The CDC’s Fight Germs. Wash Your Hands! hand hygiene video says, “…once your hands are cleaned, you should dry them thoroughly by using a clean towel, an electric hand dryer, or air dry them.”
One of the options is Excel’s XLERATOR Hand Dryers with the HEPA filtration system, which are proven to remove 99.999% of viruses from the airstream, based on performance testing by LMS Technologies, April 2020.
If you’re interested in taking advantage of these federal relief dollars to foster a cleaner learning environment in your school, consider installing Excel Dryer’s innovative, touchless and Made in USA Certified hand dryers. Learn more about XLERATORs online.
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