FAQs: American Rescue Plan and School Violence Prevention Program education grants

Dr. Judy Riffle answers some of the most commonly asked questions regarding the ARP and SVPP

Questions about education funding available through the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) and School Violence Prevention Program (SVPP) abound.

ARP federal funds will be passed through State Education Agencies (SEAs/state education departments) to schools, such as the 2020-2023 ARP ESSER III application in Texas which is due July 27, 2021. (More information about Texas ARP ESSER and CARES Act funding allocations can be found here.)

SVPP is now open with a grants.gov due date of June 15, 2021 and a justgrants application due date of June 22, 2021. Total funding of $53 million is available in 2021; three-year awards per applicant are capped at $500,000 with a 25% match requirement.

It’s important to show the need for school safety equipment and services allowed under the School Violence Prevention Program grant.
It’s important to show the need for school safety equipment and services allowed under the School Violence Prevention Program grant. (Motorola Solutions)

In 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) awarded $49 million to 160 organizations; beneficiaries included more than 3,000 schools and two million students. 502 applications were received, covering 49 states and the District of Columbia (50% rural, 32% suburban, and 18% urban).

Now, let’s get to some of the many questions being asked this year. 

American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Questions

Can schools be reimbursed for items purchased in 2020?

Yes, per the U.S. DOE, "ARP ESSER funds may be used for pre-award costs dating back to March 13, 2020, when the national emergency was declared. Available for obligation by SEAs and subrecipients through September 30, 2023."

Are only private or religious based schools receiving this funding? Are charter schools allowed to apply?

Local Education Agencies (LEAs) are eligible to receive this funding through their SEA. LEAs include county offices of education, public school districts, and charter schools that are designated LEAs. Not all charter schools are LEAs. Refer to the application guidelines in the state where an LEA is applying. 

Per the U.S. DOE, “the ARP (section 2002) includes a separate program of Emergency Assistance for Non-Public Schools (EANS). Consequently, LEAs do not provide equitable services under ARP ESSER. Under EANS, a SEA provides services or assistance to nonpublic schools that enroll a significant percentage of children from low-income families and are most impacted by COVID-19. EANS funds may not be used to provide reimbursements for costs incurred by non-public schools.”

What are some allowable costs through the ARP ESSER grant?

LEAs must dedicate no less than 20% of funds toward learning loss through “evidence-based interventions, such as summer learning or summer enrichment, extended day, comprehensive afterschool programs, or extended school year programs, and ensure that such interventions respond to students’ academic, social, and emotional needs and address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on underrepresented student subgroups.” Other allowable costs include hiring new staff, avoiding layoffs, preparing for reopening following CDC guidelines (strategies, public health protocols), and upgrading air quality in school buildings. 

School Violence Prevention Program Questions

Is a school safety assessment required to be completed before submitting a grant application?

It’s important to show the need for school safety equipment and services allowed under this grant, connect that need to the project budget, and demonstrate cooperation with local law enforcement agencies. Use documents such as police after action reports, school security department reports, or other evidence of threats/dangerous situations that have occurred in the school or local community. Therefore, some type of informal or formal school safety assessment is helpful in drafting a competitive application, but it is not required.

Below are some resources from the solicitation instructions in grants.gov.

A narrative question in this year’s application is: “School Safety Planning Efforts: Describe the current state of your comprehensive school safety planning and assessment efforts, including the status of any site and risk assessments, emergency operations plans, school climate improvement efforts and initiatives, threat assessment processes and procedures, training and drills, and local school safety partnerships. Regarding local school safety partnerships, please describe any coordination with students/parents/guardians, community members, civilian personnel, and law enforcement that support and enhance the continuum of wraparound services for students.”

Some resources provided are: “Site and risk assessments that examine the overall safety, physical accessibility and emergency preparedness of school buildings and grounds and improve jurisdictions’ understanding of the likelihood of specific threats or hazards."

For assistance, see:

  1. REMS Site Assess App, an application developed by the REMS TA Center to assist agencies in conducting site assessments, which can be found at online app stores
  2. Educational Facilities Vulnerability/Hazard Assessment Checklist
  3. A Guide to School Vulnerability Assessments: Key Principles for Safe Schools 

Is a school safety assessment an allowable cost to include in the grant budget?

Yes, via the 2018 STOP School Violence Act and the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), “development and operation of a school threat assessment” is an allowable cost.

Will SVPP cover any higher education needs?

Possibly, if you partner with an eligible lead applicant such as a city, county, tribe, law enforcement agency, or school district.

Per the COPS Office, “States, units of local government and its public agencies (school districts, public boards of education, police departments, sheriff’s departments, etc.), and Indian tribes are eligible. Individual schools, colleges, and universities are not eligible to apply as the primary applicant. All state, local, and university or college law enforcement agencies must be certified by an approved independent credentialing body or have started the certification process to be allocated FY 2021 DOJ discretionary grant funding, as either a recipient or a subrecipient.”

You can find information about 2020 SVPP awardees here.

other tips

As some last grant tips, always read each Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) thoroughly, highlight important sections, attend funder informational webinars, and ask the funding specialist specific questions that you cannot find answers to in the NOFO, funder website, or funder FAQ section.

You can also find additional information about ARP, SVPP, school safety grants, and other education funding sources/tips at EducationGrantsHelp.

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