How the American Rescue Plan Can Help Students Experiencing Homelessness

June 9, 2021
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The CARES Act, signed in March 2020, established two funds to help schools safely reopen and rebound from the impact of the pandemic: the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief ( ESSER ) Fund for state educational agencies and school districts, and the Governor's Emergency Education Relief ( GEER ) Fund for governor's offices. The American Rescue Plan, signed one year later, provides additional funding for both.

The Department of Education published new Frequently Asked Questions about how these new funds can be used to support students experiencing homelessness. The following is an excerpt from that document:

How may ESSER and GEER funds be used to support students experiencing homelessness?

ESSER and GEER funds may be used for services and interventions specifically tailored to meet the needs of students experiencing homelessness including, for example:

  • Outreach and service delivery;
  • Mental health services and positive behavioral interventions and supports;
  • Planning and implementing summer learning and after-school programs addressing the needs of students experiencing homelessness.

An LEA (local educational agency) may use ESSER and GEER funds to ensure that all students experiencing homelessness are identified and fully participate in school on the same basis as their peers through, for example, outreach, training, and community collaborations. For example, an LEA may use ESSER and GEER funds for the following purposes:

  • To increase the FTE hours of the homeless liaison designated under McKinney-Vento;
  • To assign building-level contacts (particularly in highly impacted schools);
  • To increase specialized support staffing, such as counselors, social workers, and others who are specifically trained in outreach and services for students experiencing homelessness; and
  • To provide transportation services to ensure access to after-school or summer learning and enrichment programs.

An LEA should coordinate the use of ESSER and GEER funds with other education funds used to support homeless students such as McKinney-Vento and part A of title I of the ESEA to ensure a comprehensive approach to meeting those students’ needs.

Please note that ESSER and GEER funds should be used to address the specific needs of students experiencing homelessness, just as they are intended to meet the needs of other underserved groups of students and other groups of students most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The ARP Act also includes an additional $800 million to support the needs of students experiencing homelessness, and these resources should be additive to the supports and services provided under ESSER and GEER.”

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