By Adam Eisenman - January 13, 2021
On December 27th, 2020 the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriation (Supplemental) Act was signed into law. This legislation provides ongoing relief to those impacted by the pandemic. The bill appropriates additional federal dollars in a number of key areas including; direct payments to individuals, expanded unemployment benefits, K-12 education and vaccine distribution. The bill also extends the deadline for state and local governments to use monies from the Coronavirus Relief Fund until December 31, 2021.
While modeled on similar subject areas as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed in March 2020, the comprehensive Supplemental legislation differs from the previous bill. Most notably, the Supplemental does not include an increase in funds for the $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund established by the CARES Act which provided a minimum of $1.25 billion dollars to states and local governments to cover necessary expenses incurred due to the COVID-19 public health emergency.
Instead, the Supplemental extends the period that state and local governments have to use their existing remaining funds from December 30, 2020 to December 31st, 2021.
In March 2020, the CARES Act created and subsequently tasked the Department of Education with administering the Education Stabilization Fund (ESF) as a mechanism to funnel federal funding to state and local education entities impacted by COVID-19.
The ESF is comprised of three main grant programs:
The CARES Act initial FY2020 appropriation to the ESF was $30.75 billion. The Supplemental appropriated an additional $81 billion in funding to these existing programs created under the CARES Act for use through September 30, 2022. This includes $4 billion to GEER, $54 billion to ESSER and $23 billion to HEERF.
GEER Fund dollars are awarded at the discretion of each state’s Governor to provide pandemic related emergency funds to state education entities. ESSER funds are awarded to State Educational Agencies who are required to provide at least 90% of the funds to Local Educational Agencies to assist districts and schools with coordinating ongoing preparedness and response activities associated with the pandemic.
Unlike with the CARES Act ESSER funds will be allocated primarily to public schools. The Supplemental also altered the existing funding formula for HEERF program, which focuses on awards to institutions of higher education.
In addition to funds for educational agencies, the Supplemental also includes dedicated funding to assist federal entities and states with ongoing vaccine distribution. The bill allocates $8.7 billion, through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to plan, prepare for, promote, distribute, administer, monitor, and track coronavirus vaccines. These funds will be available until September 30, 2024.
At least $4.5 billion of this overall amount is dedicated for states, localities, territories and tribes to ensure successful local vaccine distribution and administration. The first $1 billion of this funding is scheduled to be made available to states, localities and tribes by mid-January.
Additionally, the CDC will also make available no less than $300,000,000 million for high-risk and underserved populations, including racial and ethnic minority populations and rural communities.
In general, the funds distributed to states may be used for obligations incurred for coronavirus vaccine promotion, preparedness, tracking, and distribution, including reimbursing states for measures taken prior to the passage of the Supplemental.
With regard to the mechanics of the distribution of this funding, the Supplemental also requires that by the end of January the Director of the CDC shall provide an updated and comprehensive coronavirus vaccine distribution strategy and spending plan that will include funds already allocated for distribution and how the $4.5 billion in direct aid will be distributed to state and local entities.
Technology continues to play a pivotal role in how state and federal entities are responding to the pandemic.
Educational institutions are engaging in coordinated pandemic response. Whether it be through health and wellness checks for faculty and staff as schools return to in person education or communicating with the wider community to share pandemic related updates, technology remains a key component.
As states continue to struggle with performing vaccine distribution, technology is vital when engaging with community members seeking the vaccine. More and more states are reporting trouble surfacing information from and maintaining effective communication with vulnerable populations. Technology can help fill the gaps, build trust and perform ongoing two-way communication with those most vulnerable.
The Supplemental also highlights an emerging trend that has taken hold over the life of the pandemic, coordination. The legislation discusses the importance of having tools, policies and procedures for entities not only to communicate with their individual staff members but also with other agencies tasked with providing direct aid to constituents. Technology can speed the completion of tasks across multiple stake holders and share that information with appropriate officials at the city, county or state level.
It is expected that the Biden Administration will continue to provide additional funding for pandemic relief and vaccine distribution. What measures will be included in another legislative package remain to be seen.
While communities continue to recover and move forward in 2021, partnering with trusted solution providers to deliver critical communications will be more important than ever. Rave's consultants are here to help answer any questions you might have regarding how to use stimulus funds towards community safety initiatives.
Adam Eisenman is the Director of Government Affairs at Rave Mobile Safety. Adam leads Rave’s legislative and policy efforts nationally on a range of public safety issues from school safety to 9-1-1 resulting in statewide policy solutions that impact millions of individuals.