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Federal stimulus funding for ABSS could top $100 million

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The final tally in stimulus funding for the Alamance-Burlington school system could ultimately top $100 million under federal legislation passed this week, based on an initial estimate ABSS has received from state education officials.

“Part three [of the federal stimulus funding] is supposed to be double the total” of the first two rounds of stimulus funding that ABSS received from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by Congress last year, ABSS chief finance officer Jeremy Teetor told school board members during their work session Tuesday.

ABSS received approximately $35 million from the first two rounds of CARES Act funding. The total amount received to date includes $11.8 million from the stimulus package that Congress passed in March 2020 and $22.9 million from the package that passed in December, based on figures that Teetor has previously outlined.

The latest stimulus package – the $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan” – is now headed to the U.S. House for consideration, Teetor said Tuesday afternoon. The U.S. Senate passed the stimulus bill on Saturday. The U.S. House followed suit Wednesday, and President Joe Biden is expected to sign the legislation within days.

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North Carolina stands to receive approximately $3.8 billion from the American Rescue Plan, multiple media outlets have reported.
The total amount of stimulus funding from all three packages could represent nearly 2.5 times what ABSS receives from the county each year, based on the scenario Teetor described this week. ABSS received $43.2 million in current expense funding from the county for the 2020-21 fiscal year, under the budget the commissioners adopted in June 2020.

Funding from the American Rescue Plan would be distributed in the same manner as the first two stimulus packages, Teetor said, citing the latest updates he has received from the school business division within the state Department of Public Instruction (DPI). ABSS would have until September 30, 2023 to spend those funds, the finance officer elaborated.

The $22.9 million that ABSS received from the second round of CARES Act funding (or CARES Act II) also has a spending deadline of September 30, 2023, the finance officer said. A portion of that money is required to be used to provide academic support services, which Teetor characterized as “addressing learning loss,” specifically through “summer learning, extended day, comprehensive afterschool, or extended school year programs,” based on an overview he presented Tuesday.

“DPI only recently finalized each allotment” for the state’s 115 public school systems from the second CARES Act package, Teetor elaborated. The State Board of Education recently held its first meeting to discuss permissible uses for CARES Act II funding, which could carry a requirement for school systems to offer “additional summer learning experiences,” he said.

“The General Assembly may require these experiences; it seems they may also require use of some of this additional Covid money for this,” Teetor told school board members during their work session.
ABSS plans to use the CARES Act II funding for the following expenses, based on a preliminary breakdown that Teetor presented:
· $11.9 million for facility improvements;
· $5.3 million to hire remediation specialists;
· $2 million for elementary summer learning;
· $2 million to offset expected decline in state funding due to enrollment decrease during the current school year;
· $960,000 for high school instructional support.
ABSS also received approximately $844,000 (included in the overall total of approximately $35 million the school system has received to date) through a Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) fund, based on figures presented Tuesday. Each state’s governor received funding through the CARES Act “to award as they see fit,” Teetor said.

N.C. public school systems are required to use GEER funding for K-12 for expenses such as “meeting social and emotional needs for students as they return to school” and student academic support, the finance officer explained. “The second bucket is specifically [for] working with at-risk students, specifically looking at tutoring needs [and related expenses],” Teetor said.

Part or all of the federal stimulus money that ABSS and other school systems can also be used to offset expenses related to COVID-19, such as extra cleaning/sanitization; building modifications to meet social distancing guidelines; and other improvements aimed at mitigating the spread of the virus, based on rules being set at the state level, Teetor said. “One specific area is improvement in air filtration systems,” he added.

ABSS is currently soliciting bids to purchase air purifiers with HEPA filters to improve air quality inside school buildings and classrooms with limited air circulation and/or windows that can be opened, assistant superintendent Todd Thorpe recently told school board members.

The update on federal stimulus funding for ABSS was listed as an informational item on the agenda for this week’s work session, meaning no vote was requested.

Teetor said he would provide school board members with additional details about how much money ABSS might receive from the third stimulus package, as well as how it can be used, once that information becomes available.

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