What Charter Schools Need to Know

Federal COVID-19 Response Legislation and Charter Schools

From March 6 through March 27, 2020, the U.S. Congress passed a series of three laws intended to strengthen the capacity of federal, state, and local governments and health systems to prepare for, prevent, or respond to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), or provide relief for individuals, businesses, and state and local governments affected by health or economic impacts of COVID-19 and related closures.

  • The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act (H.R. 6074), passed on March 6, provided $8.3 billion in emergency funding for vaccine development, research and equipment stockpiles, and supporting state and local health budgets.
  • The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201), passed on March 18, provided $1 billion in nutritional aid, and expanded access to COVID-19 testing and expanded sick leave benefits.
  • The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (H.R. 748), signed into law March 27, includes roughly $2 trillion in emergency funding for individuals, businesses (including nonprofits), and state and local governments.
  • The Paycheck Protection Program and Healthcare Enhancement Act (H.R. 266), signed into law April 24, provides $484 billion in additional funding for small businesses, hospitals, and COVID-19 testing, including funds to extend the Paycheck Protection Program, created under the CARES Act

Many provisions in these laws, particularly the CARES Act, have implications for charter schools. There are five primary ways in which these laws may affect charter schools:

  1. As employers, charter schools with fewer than 500 employees are required to comply with new family and sick leave provisions in the FFCRA and CARES Acts and may be eligible for refundable tax credits for providing this new leave.
  2. As nonprofits, some charter schools may be eligible for financial assistance and relief provided to small- and mid-sized businesses by the CARES Act. The CARES Act provides a variety of loans, grants, tax credits, and deferrals designed to help small- and mid-sized businesses weather disruptions caused by COVID-19, preserve jobs, and continue to pay their employees. CARES also explicitly makes many of these supports available to small- and mid-sized nonprofits, as well as businesses. Because most charter schools are structured as nonprofits, charter schools may be able to benefit from some of these provisions. However, because state laws treat charter schools’ nongovernmental status differently, it is not clear whether all charter schools will be able to benefit from these programs. Charter schools that are interested in accessing SBA loans and employee retention tax credits should consult with their attorneys and state advocates.
  3. As elementary and secondary schools, charter schools can benefit from CARES Act provisions to support elementary and secondary schools and state education systems in preventing, preparing for, and responding to impacts of COVID-19. It allows the Secretary of Education to grant waivers of a variety of provisions of federal education law, primarily related to assessment, accountability, and reporting results of assessment and accountability systems. And it provides additional funding to states and local education agencies to pay costs associated with preventing, preparing for, or responding to effects of COVID-19. Charter schools are included in testing and accountability waivers granted to states, and charter schools that are local education agencies may request additional waivers. Charter schools should also receive funding from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (described below) and may also be eligible for additional funds provided to governors and $100 million made available to support schools with cleaning and provision of mental health supports.
  4. Some charter schools may be able to access funds that CARES provides for a variety of non-education programs, including Child Nutrition Programs; Coronavirus Relief Fund; FEMA Public Assistance; the Rural Utilities Service’s Distance Learning, Telemedicine, and Broadband Program; Child Care and Development Block Grant; Head Start; Community Services Block Grant; Community Development Fund; and Public Housing Operating Fund. The table below provides a brief summary of education and non-education funds that charter schools may be able to access.
  5. Charter schools should be aware of additional provisions in the legislation that may affect some charter school teachers and staff, including teachers participating in TEACH Grants or Teacher Loan Forgiveness and charter school staff participating in Public Service Loan Forgiveness or in AmeriCorps or other Corporation for National and Community Service programs.

This webpage is designed to help charter school leaders understand the provisions of the FFCRA and CARES Acts that may have implications for their schools, and to access agency and credible third-party resources to help them make decisions about their responsibilities and opportunities under these acts. It is not intended to be a comprehensive summary of all provisions of CARES. Because the CARES Act is a broad response to the coronavirus’ impact on public health and the economy, it addresses a wide range of topics, including supports and waivers for higher education institutions; regulation of over-the-counter drugs; and supplemental funding for many federal agencies to help them prevent, prepare for, or respond to the effects of the coronavirus. This webpage focuses only on those provisions and programs that are most relevant to charter schools.

This resource is not intended to provide legal or accounting advice or recommend a specific action for any individual school. Applicability of some provisions of FFCRA and CARES to individual schools may vary based on state context or an individual school’s situation. Schools with questions about their eligibility for various programs or supports should refer to federal agency guidance (which is included in links throughout this webpage) and consult with their attorneys and/or accountants.

This is a living resource: As federal agencies release additional information and guidance about various programs and provisions of FFCRA and CARES over the coming weeks and months, we will update it to reflect these additional resources.

CARES Act funding streams that could support charter schools in meeting needs of their students, families, and communities due to COVID-19
Name Funding Eligibility Funds Accessible
Paycheck Protection Program SBA loans $349 billion Small businesses, nonprofits, sole proprietorship
Only nongovernmental entities are eligible
EIDL Loans Small businesses, nonprofits, sole proprietorships
Only nongovernmental entities are eligible
Governor’s Education Emergency Relief Fund $3 billion Governors, who must subgrant funds to IHEs, LEAs, or other education organizations
At discretion of governor
Elementary & Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund $13.5 billion SEAs, who must subgrant 90% of funds to LEAs
Non-LEA charter schools must access through LEA
Yes, if LEAs
Project SERV  $100 million LEAs, IHEs, and SEAs
Application criteria and process not yet known
Yes, if LEAs
Child Nutrition Programs  $8.8 billion State agencies responsible for school nutrition programs
Participating charter schools are reimbursed for meals by state
Coronavirus Relief Fund  $150 billion State, tribal, & local governments
Recipients could use funds to cover costs incurred by charter schools 
FEMA $45 billion State, local, tribal & territorial governments & eligible private nonprofits are applicants.
Expedited application available. Funds may be used for emergency protective measures 
Rural Utility Service DLT Program $25 million  State & local government, tribes, nonprofits, for-profit businesses
Competitive application for $72 million opens 4/14
Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) $3.5 billion State agencies responsible for CCDBG
Charter schools that are licensed child care providers may receive funds from state 
Head Start $705 million Head Start grantees
Other charter schools may partner with grantees to offer summer programs
Only current Head Start grantees
Community Services Block Grant $1 billion States, territories, tribes, 90% pass through to eligible local entities, typically community action agencies
Charter schools could partner with eligible local entities
Community Development Block Grant $5 billion State and local governments
Grantees could subgrant to or contract with charter schools 
Public Housing Operating Fund $685 million Public housing agencies
Charter schools could partner with grantees