Background on Federal COVID-19 Education Relief Funds

Alaska has received hundreds of millions of dollars in federal COVID-19 relief funds, most of which have gone straight to public school districts. Collectively to date, schools have nearly $401 million in COVID-19 relief funding left to spend and the state has millions of funds unallocated. The funds were sent to the state to assist schools in continuing to educate students during the pandemic and address learning loss due to closures. The remaining federal funds should be spent on addressing those learning losses and other related needs, such as a strong reading initiative.   

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government enacted three separate relief acts that included education funding: the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Recovery (CARES) Act; the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act; and the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act. Each act granted federal funds to a variety of educational entities, with stipulations on how the money was to be spent. Broadly speaking, all three acts intended to grant funds for educational needs that arose due to the pandemic, such as testing, reopening schools, online learning, student mental health, and addressing learning loss.   

Specifically, the CARES Act was intended to provide funding for assessment and accountability waivers and initial COVID response in March 2020. The CRRSA Act was intended to provide funding to fully reopen K–12 schools and measure learning loss. The ARP Act is the most recent, and is intended to address ongoing safety and reopening measures.   

In Alaska, four separate entities received a total of over $621 million in education funds, according to the Office of Management and Budget: school districts, non-public schools, the Department of Education and Early Development (DEED), and the Office of the Governor. DEED and the Office of the Governor were considered the main grantees for the funds, with requirements to disperse a major percentage of funds to school districts and later, under the CRRSA, to non-public schools.   

Alaska public school districts received over $538 million in required federal funds. According to individual dashboards published by the state, DEED received $56 million, the Office of the Governor received $9 million, and non-public schools received $11 million.  

This leaves over $6 million, mostly from the ARP Act, not yet allocated. By federal mandate, at least $18 million of the ARP money must be spent to address learning loss, $3.6 million on afterschool programs, and $3.6 million on summer school programs. Additionally, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a recent speech that states should “[utilize] Rescue Plan Funds (ARP) to ensure in the coming years, that every child can read by third grade.” 

Alaska was given hundreds of millions of dollars in federal COVID-19 relief funds and still has over 74% percent of the money left to allocate and spend. As much of the money as possible should be spent on things like addressing learning loss and implementing a strong reading initiative so that Alaska’s students can read by third grade. Doing so will make the best use of the federal funds given to the state and will make the largest positive impact on our students’ lives. 

The dashboards are updated regularly by the state. These numbers are reflective of April 26, 2022.