Another $164 million in federal funds will help schools protect students and staff against the coronavirus according to a decision Gov. Janet Mills announced Wednesday.
The $164 million in CARES Act funding complements an earlier $165 million allocation to schools designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, open schools or facilitate remote learning when conditions didn’t allow for schools to open. The latest allocation will go to state school administrative units statewide starting next week.
CARES is the $2 trillion federal coronavirus relief package passed in March to help states cope with the financial impacts of the virus and the business shutdowns and other restrictions needed to prevent its spread. CARES funding has benefitted the unemployed, Maine rail service, seafood businesses, small businesses, and schools, among others. The legislation included government payments of $1,200 to most Americans and increased jobless benefits for millions of people plus loans, grants and tax breaks of businesses of all sizes, including billions to states and local governments and the nation’s health care system.
Most of the money’s end users are determined by state and local governments. The formula that is allocating money to schools was developed by the Maine Department of Education and school superintendents from across the state. Mills said the education allocation “helps ensure that our schools are best equipped as they can be to meet the challenges they face now as well as any that may arise this fall.”
The Maine Department of Education will provide each SAU with its maximum allocation according to the formula. Then the school districts will apply for more funding describing how the funds will be spent, with an eye toward remaining within the constraints Congress placed on the funding’s use within the Framework for Re-Opening Schools and Returning to In-person Instruction, Mills said.
The $165 million allocation generally paid for facility and technology upgrades needed for a safe and efficient return to school, where possible. This second round will assist schools with things such as substitute teachers or learning facilitators, transportation and facility modifications to support physical distancing; cleaning supplies for buses or buildings; contract custodial, tutoring, and medical staffing; technology and ongoing connectivity needs; and professional development for teachers who must become fluent in hybrid and remote learning models in order to accommodate all students.
The first round of funding was issued in July, Mills said.