ESSER Overview


Congress has authorized three rounds of COVID relief funding since the start of the pandemic.  These rounds of funding are referred to as ESSER, which is short for Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER).  Each of these rounds of ESSER funds are authorized by separate legislative acts signed into law by the president:

  • ESSER I – authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act
  • ESSER II – authorized by the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act
  • ESSER III – authorized by the American Recovery Plan (ARP) Act

In total, DCPS has received approximately $300M in COVID-19 recovery funds to support our schools. The funds that DCPS has received will support student learning acceleration and critical system supports. 


DCPS’ award for ESSER I is $22M, of which DCPS had to allocate $3M to provide equitable services to private schools, which is required under the law. DCPS began using these grant funds in Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) and expects to spend all remaining funds in Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21). 

ESSER I Spend Plan

  • $16 million: Technology. These funds are supporting additional student devices and internet connectivity. 
  • $3 million: Equitable services to private schools. These funds are supporting purchasing of school safety supplies and equipment, training, and licenses for virtual learning platforms for private schools. As required under the law. 
  • $2 million: Summer Learning and Supplemental Programming. These funds are supporting various instructional materials, updates to curricular materials for virtual learning, start-up costs for Military Road, and building readiness.  
  • $1 million: Staffing.  These funds supported staffing costs for programming focused on creating connections with students in transitional grades prior to the start of the school year and for CARE classrooms. 


DCPS’ award for ESSER II is $86M. Notably, ESSER II does not require the provision of equitable services to private schools under the law. DCPS began spending the funds in  Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) and will continue to spend throughout Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) as well. 

ESSER II Spend Plan (Deliberative)

  • $26 million: School-based academic and social emotional acceleration. These funds will support the implementation of integrated academic and social emotional learning recovery plans at every school, including for example, summer enrichment programs, extended learning time, and high intensity tutoring.  These funds were allocated directly to schools based on their enrollment and population of students identified as at-risk. This past spring, schools engaged their teachers, staff, families, and community to develop a tailored summer acceleration academy and learning recovery plan.
  • $15 million: Technology and Related Supports for Students. These funds will support the third and final year of the ELI initiative. The funding will ensure centralized purchasing so every student in grades 3-12 has a device (1:1) and students in grades PK-2 have a device at a 3 student per one device ration (3:1). This funding also supports Microsoft licenses and technical support for students.
  • $12 million: Technology and Related Supports for Educators. These funds will facilitate centralized purchasing to ensure all teachers have in life-cycle laptops and technical support.
  • $9 million: Teaching and learning and educator professional development These funds will support curriculum and assessments, including the Science of Learning, resources for math acceleration, professional development, etc.
  • $9 million: Meal service, warehouse, and curricular support These funds will support key operational services such as athletics, warehouse contracts, food services, curriculum and special education evaluation support, teacher stipends, and family engagement and enrollment efforts. 
  • $9 million: In-Person Learning Innovations.  These funds will support schools in developing creative approaches to in-person learning outside of the traditional school classroom, such as outdoor learning furniture, equipment, and supplies, and learning partnerships.
  • $6 million: Other investments in response to mid-year COVID- related needs, including family engagement and reopening..  These funds will support investments to summer youth employment program, graduation venues, family engagement and reopening needs, and term limited staff to support with reopening and management of federal dollars.


DCPS’ award for ESSER III is $191M. DCPS will begin spending these funds in Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) and will continue to spend these funds in future fiscal years. To date, DCPS has allocated $20.8M to schools to ensure that they are able to open the 2021-22 school year with the staff and resources they need to support student success.

DCPS has worked to engage stakeholders on the use of ESSER III funds over future years through convening several workgroups of educators, parents and school leaders, and issuing survey to the public on priorities for the use of ESSER funds. DCPS will post its draft plan for public comment this month prior to finalizing the plan and submitting it to the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) by June 30.