Other funding streams that charter schools may be able to access

Federal COVID-19 Response Legislation and Charter Schools

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In addition to education funds appropriated by the CARES Act, several non-education programs received CARES Act funding that can be used to support educational services. Charter schools cannot directly access most of these federal funding streams (with the exception of the Rural Utilities Service’s Distance Learning, Telemedicine, and Broadband Program), but could partner with eligible grantees to deliver education services as contractors or subgrantees.

In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved numerous waivers of Child Nutrition Programs that can provide participating charter schools substantially increased flexibility in providing food to children and families they serve.

Child Nutrition Programs Funding and Waivers

The FFCRA provides $8.8 billion in increased funding through September 30, 2021, for Child Nutrition Programs, including the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs and Child and Adult Care Food Program. It also gives the Secretary of Agriculture broad authority to waive requirements of various Child Nutrition Act programs to enable continued provision of food and nutrition services during the COVID-19 emergency. To date, the Secretary of Agriculture has approved a variety of waivers to enable schools, districts, and early childhood programs to continue to provide meals to children and families they serve, while adhering to social distancing guidelines to protect public health. These include:

The FFCRA also allows states to give additional food assistance funds directly to low-income families with children whose schools have closed due to COVID-19, via an ATM-like card (Pandemic EBT). To utilize this flexibility, states must submit a plan and receive approval from the USDA.

In addition to Child Nutrition Programs, the CARES Act provides an additional $450 million for the Emergency Food Assistance Program, which provides food that food banks and other local agencies distribute to low-income individuals.

Implications for Charter Schools

Charter schools that participate in Child Nutrition Programs can take advantage of these increased funds and waivers in order to better serve children, families, and communities.

Charter schools and advocates in states that are approved for Pandemic EBT will want to understand these plans and requirements so that they can support eligible children and their families served by charter schools to access these funds equitably with other public school students.

Additional Information and Resources:

Coronavirus Relief Fund

Authorizes $150 billion for payments to state, tribal, and local governments to support necessary expenses incurred due to COVID-19 that were not previously part of the state or local government’s budget.

Implications for Charter Schools

  • State or local governments could choose to use a portion of these funds to support costs incurred by charter schools and other public schools as a result of COVID-19.
  • Funds flow to states on a formula based on state population. Local governments with a population of 500,000 or higher can choose to apply to receive the funds directly from the federal government. State allocations will be reduced to reflect funds awarded directly to local governments.

Additional Information and Resources:

Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) Public Assistance

The CARES Act provides $45 billion in funding for FEMA for major disasters and disaster relief. On March 13, 2020, President Trump declared an emergency for all states, tribes, territories, and the District of Columbia. This emergency declaration enables state, territorial, tribal, and local government entities (including school districts) as well as certain nonprofit organizations to apply for FEMA Public Assistance funding for emergency protective measures. Emergency protective measures may include expenses such as transportation, care, shelter, and essential needs for humans affected by pandemic disease; security in a disaster area; provision of food, water, ice, and other essential items; and removal of health and safety hazards (among other activities). FEMA also created a simplified application process for eligible applicants seeking reimbursement for emergency protective measures.

Implications for Charter Schools

Many charter schools could be eligible to apply for Public Assistance funding as educational nonprofits or local government entities. Charter schools interested in seeking FEMA funds should consult FEMA’s Public Assistance Applicant Handbook and Program and Policy Guide to understand their eligibility and the types of costs for which funds may be used.

Additional Information and Resources:

Rural Utilities Service’s Distance Learning, Telemedicine, and Broadband Program

The CARES Act provides an additional $25 million for the DLT program, which builds capacity of rural communities to access distance learning and telemedicine. Funds are awarded through competitive grants. In March, the Rural Utilities Service, which runs the DLT program, announced a new competition for $72 million in DLT funds, which will open April 14 and close on July 13.

Implications for Charter Schools

Charter schools that serve rural communities and students may be eligible grantees for this program, which allows grants to most state and local government entities, federally recognized tribes, nonprofits, and for-profit businesses. Funds may be used for technology, equipment, and wiring needed to deliver distance learning or telemedicine; purchases of instructional programming; and to pay costs for technical assistance support. Typical grants range from $50,000 to $1 million.

Additional Information and Resources:

Child Care and Development Block Grant

The CARES Act provides $3.5 billion to states, territories, and tribes for child care. States, territories, and tribes can use these funds to:

  • Provide continued payments and assistance to sustain the viability of child care providers who are required to close or experience decreased enrollment due to COVID-19
  • Provide child care assistance to essential workers, regardless of income level
  • Enable cleaning and sanitation of child care providers so that they can reopen or remain open; eligible providers can access these funds even if they were not receiving CCDBG funds prior to public health emergency
  • The legislation also waives some limits on how states can spend CCDBG funds, so that states can use CCDBG funds for the purposes above, and reminds states that they do not need to amend their state CCDBG plans to take advantage of flexibilities in CARES or the CCDBG law
  • The legislation encourages states to require child care providers that receive these CCDBG funds to use the funds to continue to pay their workers

Implications for Charter Schools

Charter schools that already receive state child care subsidies to serve low-income children in early childhood or after-school programs may be able to continue to receive those funds even if they are closed due to COVID-19.

Charter schools that are providing child care to essential workers during the public health emergency may be able to receive state CCDBG funds.

Charter schools that operate early childhood facilities or classrooms that are licensed, registered, or regulated by the state and meet state and local health standards may be able to access CCDBG funds for cleaning and sanitation even if they do not normally receive CCDBG subsidies.

State child care administrators will make decisions about how states choose to use these additional CCDBG funds, within the parameters of CCDBG and the CARES Act. Because of the high demand for these funds, it is likely that state administrators will prioritize other types of licensed child care providers for financial assistance, unless charter schools are operating emergency child care for essential workers.

Additional Information and Resources:

Head Start

The CARES Act provides $750 million to Head Start grantees, up to $500 of which can be used to operate supplemental summer programs for Head Start students. Funds for supplemental summer programs will be awarded to Head Start grantees that the Office of Head Start determines are most ready to operate such programs. Remaining funds will be allocated to Head Start grantees based on their current funding allocations. Head Start grantees that wish to offer supplemental summer programs must provide preliminary information to the Office of Head Start by April 13.

Implications for Charter Schools

  • Only current Head Start grantees can receive these funds, but charter schools that are Head Start grantees or delegates may receive additional funding through CARES (delegates may need to negotiate funding with grantee to which they are a delegate).
  • Charter schools that are Head Start grantees or delegates should be aware of and follow the Office of Head Start’s directions regarding Head Start program operations and use of Head Start and Early Head Start centers during the coronavirus public health emergency.
  • Charter schools could also partner with Head Start grantees or delegates to help them design and operate supplemental summer programs. Charter schools with existing partnerships with Head Start grantees or delegates may want to explore potential opportunities to partner to offer supplemental summer programs.

Additional Information and Resources:

Community Services Block Grant

The CARES Act provides $1 billion for the Community Services Block Grant, which funds activities to alleviate poverty and its causes in local communities. Funds are distributed via formula to states, which in turn pass 90% of funds along to eligible local entities, primarily Community Action Agencies. These local entities use funds for a variety of services for low-income individuals, including employment training and placement, income management, education, emergency services, health, nutrition, transportation, and housing assistance, as well as to improve coordination and linkages among anti-poverty programs. The CARES Act also provides flexibility to use CSBG funds that it provides to serve individuals with incomes up to 200% of the poverty level, and allows funds it provides to carry over through September 30, 2022.

Implications for Charter Schools

Charter schools generally cannot directly access CSBG funds, which are distributed to previously identified eligible local entities, but may be able to partner with the eligible local entity for their community to provide education, nutrition, or other services to low-income individuals and families. Charter schools that have existing relationships with Community Action Agencies or other eligible local entities will be best positioned to partner in this way.

Additional Information and Resources:

Community Development Block Grant

The CARES Act provides $5 billion for the Community Development Block Grant, which makes grants to states, local government, and tribes to develop viable communities by providing decent housing and expanding economic opportunities, primarily for low- and moderate-income individuals and families. Funds can be used for a variety of activities, such as municipal infrastructure projects, housing rehabilitation, and provision of public services, including child care and education services. Typically, state and local governments may not use more than 15% of CDBG funds to provide public services, but the CARES Act waives this requirement for the funds it provides, as long as funds are used to prepare for, prevent, or respond to the impacts of the coronavirus. In addition, governors may use 20% of CARES CDBG funds for their priorities. Of the $5 billion in funding provided by CARES, $2 billion will be allocated to existing CDBG grantees by April 27, 2020, according to the same formula typically used to allocate CDBG funds; $1 billion will be distributed to the cities and states most affected by COVID-19 by May 12; and $2 billion will be distributed to states and cities by the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development on a rolling basis.

Implications for Charter Schools

Because the CARES Act waives the limit on the percentage of CDBG funds that can be used for public services, state and local governments that receive increased CDBG funds from the CARES Act can spend as much of those funds as they believe necessary on education, child care, and other public services. State and local government agencies that receive CDBG funds typically use most of the funds to make subgrants to or contracts with local organizations that provide housing, community development, and other public services. Some charter schools may already receive CDBG funds in this way. Charter schools could receive similar subgrants or contracts through these additional CDBG funds.

Charter schools that are interested in pursuing this opportunity should contact their state, city, or county government agency that receives CDBG funding to explore opportunities for potential partnerships. Charter schools that already partner with these agencies, or that have partnerships with other organizations that receive subgrants from CDBG funds, may be particularly well-positioned to help state and local government agencies use CDBG funds to meet educational and other public service needs of families and communities in response to COVID-19. Because governors control the distribution of a larger portion of CDBG funds provided by CARES, charter schools that have strong relationships with their governors may also want to reach out to them directly.

Additional Information and Resources:

  • HUD Website: Search for CDBG Grantees

Public Housing Operating Fund

The Public Housing Operating Fund provides subsidies to public housing authorities. The CARES Act provides $685 million for this fund that can be used to cover COVID-related expenses. Through December 2020, these funds can also be used to support the health and safety of individuals and families that receive public housing subsidies and activities to support education and child care for these families.

Implications for Charter Schools

Charter schools cannot access Public Housing Operating Funds directly, but public housing authorities that identify needs for education and child care among families they serve could partner with (and fund) charter schools to address those needs. Charter schools that have existing relationships and collaborations with public housing authorities in their communities would be best positioned to provide these services.

Additional Information and Resources:

Charter schools that seek or receive funds through the CARES Act should be aware that funds provided under the act may only be used to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus. There is an exception to this requirement for funds provided through the Paycheck Protection Program, however, which are intended to enable employers to continue to pay employee salaries, rent, and utility costs during the public health emergency so that these businesses and nonprofits can remain in operation and/or reopen when public health conditions improve.

Provisions that may benefit some charter school staff

Student Loan Relief

A number of CARES Act provisions provide relief to college students whose studies are disrupted by COVID-19, as well as individuals with student loan debt. Some of these provisions may benefit charter school teachers and staff who have student loan debt, or who are currently taking out student loans to complete a graduate degree or alternative route to a teaching credential:

  • Institutional Refunds and Federal Student Loan Flexibility: Requires the Secretary of Education to cancel loan debt associated with a period of time when a student had to withdraw from an institution due to COVID-19. This provision could benefit charter school teachers who are using student loans to pay for postsecondary coursework associated with alternative certification or graduate degree programs whose studies were disrupted by COVID-19.
  • Temporary Relief for Federal Student Loan Borrowers: Suspends all payments due and interest accruing for federal student loans through Sept. 30, 2020. Months of suspended payment will be counted as if the borrower had made a payment for purposes of student loan forgiveness programs. Borrowers will have to request a refund for any payments made in mid- to late March.
  • Employer Payment of Student Loans: Allows employers to contribute up to $5,250 annually toward an employee’s student loan payments, without counting as taxable income for the employee. Applies to student loan payments made by employers between March 27, 2020 and Jan. 1, 2021. Could benefit charter schools who contribute to employees’ student loan payments, or wish to do so as a retention or hiring incentive during the remainder of 2020.
TEACH Grants and Teacher Loan Forgiveness

Some CARES Act provisions may enable charter school teachers to continue to maintain eligibility for TEACH Grants or teacher loan forgiveness even if the teaching positions that qualify them for these benefits are discontinued or disrupted due to COVID-19. Implications for any individual teacher will depend on the teacher’s personal situation.

  • TEACH Grants: The Secretary of Education can excuse a portion of service obligations for TEACH Grant recipients who are unable to fulfill all or part of their service obligation due to a public health emergency. Part-time or temporarily interrupted teaching during the COVID-19 emergency may count toward service obligations
  • Teacher Loan Forgiveness: Waives requirement that years of teaching be consecutive in order to qualify for teacher loan forgiveness. Teachers can meet requirements by completing a total of five years of qualifying service before, during, and after the COVID-19 emergency, even if their service is interrupted by it
Corporation for National and Community Service

Charter schools that employ AmeriCorps members may wish to understand provisions of CARES that affect these programs:

  • AmeriCorps members whose positions are suspended or placed on hold due to COVID-19 can be allowed to accrue other service hours that will count toward the number of hours needed for their educational award
  • If a participant is required to exit their position at the direction of the Corporation for National and Community Service, the CEO of CNCS may deem the participant met the requirements and award the full educational award
  • May also extend the term of service for up to 1 year

Additional Resources and Information

  • The Corporation for National and Community Service’s Coronavirus Q&A page answers common questions about the implications of coronavirus and associated closures and other disruptions for AmeriCorps members