By Austin Reid and Jocelyn Salguero
The Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund, created through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES), provided $3 billion to governors to address emergency education needs in their state.
NCSL, with assistance from the National Governor’s Association (NGA), is tracking how governors have allocated these funds. According to NCSL’s GEER tracker, NCSL and NGA estimate that at least 93.1% of available GEER funds were obligated by the end of 2020.
The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021 (CRRSA), signed into law on Dec. 27, provided another $4.1 billion to states through the GEER Fund. While $2.75 billion of the new allocation is reserved for Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools (EANS) awards, governors received an additional $1.3 billion in flexible GEER funds. These supplemental funds were made available to governors on Jan. 8.
Below are highlights of the range of ways governors have used the first round of GEER funds to address K-12 and higher education challenges in their states. To date, more than 90% of obligated funds have been allocated to K-12 and higher education, with 8 states awarding $62.6 million to early childhood education.
At least 46 states have obligated $1.7 billion of GEER funds for K-12 education, including 10 states that devoted the entirety of their GEER allotment to K-12 education. Among those states, at least three chose to directly distribute GEER funds to districts. New York, for instance, distributed funds to districts based on the federal Title I formula, while Wisconsin and Delaware made subgrants to districts through their own needs-based criteria.
Many states are using GEER funds to help schools address learning loss. California combined its GEER and Coronavirus Relief Funds to create a $5.3 billion Learning Loss Mitigation Block Grant, which is distributed to districts based on their populations of students with disabilities, English learners, foster youth and low-income students. Alabama provided $26 million to “bridge learning and achievement gaps” and $9 million to supportive intensive tutoring. Similarly, Arizona invested $20 million in “Acceleration Academy Grants” to bring in math and reading specialists and paraprofessionals to high-need schools.
Bridging the digital divide has been another major area of state investment with GEER Funds. Connecticut combined GEER and other CARES funds to create the $43.5 million “Everybody Learns Initiative” to purchase 50,000 laptops, 12 months of access to at-home internet for 60,000 students, and create public hotspots free to the public at 200 community sites. Georgia is using $29.3 million to fund broadband signal extenders from school buildings and transmit mobile WiFi signals to students who live in multi-family housing.
At least 34 states have obligated $729 million of GEER funds to higher education. Kansas and New Jersey awarded the entirety of their GEER funds, $26 million and $68 million respectively, to their state’s public institutions. Washington also awarded all of its GEER funding to higher education, but chose to send 80% of those funds to its community and technical college system.
Many states used portions of their GEER funds to support low-income students and high-need institutions. Texas invested at least $57 million to maintain the state’s need-based financial aid programs. Illinois created a $3 million grant to support enrollment and retention of high-need students at public and private four-year institutions. Massachusetts obligated $25 million to cover COVID-related expenses associated with reopening colleges and universities, giving funding priority to schools that serve greater populations of low-income students. Additionally, South Carolina sent $2.4 million to the state’s eight historically black colleges and universities.
States also provided support to specific higher education programs. New Mexico allocated to $2.9 million to address workforce development needs focused on early childhood preparation, nursing, and teacher preparation. Similarly, Indiana awarded $11.2 million to 12 colleges and universities to create professional development for K-12 teachers and curriculum for remote learning.
Governors must award the second round of GEER funds by January 2022. NCSL, along with the NGA, will continue to track how states are using their GEER funds.
Austin Reid is committee director, education, and Jocelyn Salguero is a policy associate in NCSL's State-Federal Relations Division.