American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, left, chats with students at New River Middle School Thursday, September 2, 2021, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Weingarten is touring schools nationwide to highlight the importance of safely returning to five days a week in-person learning. Broward County is one of many school districts in Florida with a student mask mandate. AP Photo / Lynne Sladky

Orange County Public Schools report they have submitted a plan outlining how they would use $ 112.9 million in ARPA aid

By John Haughey, The Central Square

More than three months after missing the deadline, Florida still has not submitted a plan to the US Department of Education (USDE) outlining how it will spend $ 2.3 billion in federal pandemic aid allocated to the state Department of Education (DOE) as part of American Rescue. Plan Act (LPRA).

Florida and Colorado are the only states not to have done so, USDE says on its website, both warning to risk ARPA money by not providing the requested plan.

In March, the Biden administration made $ 122 billion in ARPA available to schools nationwide, with two-thirds of each state’s allocation immediately available and the remaining third subject to approval by a plan showing how the funds will be used.

Overall, 45 states and Washington DC have met the June 7 deadline. Since then, three more states have filed plans, according to USDE, which notes that it has approved plans submitted by 36 states and that all have received their full ARPA funding.

The $ 2.3 billion comes from approximately $ 7 billion of Florida schools received by ARPA. The funds can be used to hire tutors for struggling students, cover the costs of additional sanitation practices in the event of a pandemic, and bolster student mental health services.

Since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, the DOE and state schools have received approximately $ 15 billion in relief, mostly for Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Assistance (ESSER) funds.

Federal pandemic assistance to Florida includes:

  • $ 4.54 billion from the Higher Education Emergency Fund (HEER);
  • $ 249 million from the Governor’s Emergency Education Fund (GEER);
  • $ 10.9 billion in ESSER funding.

Florida DOE spokesman Jared Och maintains the state has not filed a plan for the remaining ARPA money as it waits for districts to submit their plans.

“The ARP law funds are intended to last over several fiscal years, so we work with a frugal mindset to ensure that districts have the funds they need to ensure their full resumption of education over the years. next few years, “Osh said in a statement last week. reiterating that many districts have not submitted plans.

When asked at a press conference last week why Florida hadn’t submitted its plan for the $ 2.3 billion, Gov. Ron DeSantis said the DOE “hasn’t yet received requests for all that money. Basically, when we respond to requests, we do.

However, Orange County Public Schools report that they submitted a plan a long time ago outlining how they would use $ 112.9 million in ARPA aid. Schools in Marion County say they expect $ 56 million, Brevard County $ 48.8 million, Lake County $ 39.4 million and Volusia County $ 34.5 million.

Florida also failed to request $ 820 million in “child food assistance” available under the federal Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program established under the Trump administration and administered. by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The P-EBT program was created to help children who receive free or discounted school meals be fed while studying remotely during school closings.

Florida participated in the P-EBT program in the 2020-21 school year, receiving $ 1.2 billion for more than one million qualified students in Florida.

The USDA has extended the P-EBT until this summer under President Joe Biden, allowing states to secure funding for the current 2021-22 school year.

Florida was the only state that did not submit a request, and state officials have responded poorly to requests for explanations.

DeSantis spokeswoman Christina Pushaw told the Orlando Sentinel in August that the P-EBT was created to “ensure that children are always fed while they attend school remotely.” As you know, schools are not far off in Florida, and neither were they last year. Children receive nutrition directly from schools.

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