Sarasota District Schools, transportation. Photo from Facebook page, Sarasota District Schools, transportation.
Florida is one of only five states that has not submitted a state plan for COVID relief to the U.S. Department of Education, holding up billions in federal funds to help the Florida education system recover from the impacts of COVID-19 in schools.
These funds could be used to address learning loss among students due to an irregular school year, ensure safe and sanitary schools as COVID remains a threat in classroom, and provide mental health services to help students deal with the trauma of learning through a pandemic.
But because Florida has not sent in a plan outlining what they’ll do with the federal COVID relief funds, some $2.3 billion is stuck and is not being used for any COVID recovery among Florida schools, teachers and students.
In March, the Biden administration announced that $122 billion dollars nationwide was available for schools from the American Rescue Plan act, with two thirds of the money immediately available to states and the remaining third contingent on the U.S. Department of Education’s approval of a state plan indicating how the funds will be used.
Overall, Florida was supposed to get a full stockpile — $15 billion for different COVID relief efforts.
That includes $770 million from a first round under the Trump administration; $3.133 billion from the second round of the Trump administration; $7.3-billion from the Biden administration.
Of the $7.3 billion from the Biden administration, $2.3 billion is set aside for the state plan that 45 other states have already submitted. And those state plan applications were due by June 7, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s website.
Another $4.338 billion came out of a higher education category that included some K-12 schools. The other category was related to a governor’s relief fund, which for Florida, meant $249 million.
Some of the federal money has been spent in Florida, more than $2 billion, but that’s not a large portion.
Overall, 45 states and Washington D.C. have at least submitted a plan, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s website. The five states that have not yet submitted a state plan are: Colorado, Florida, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin. It’s not been clear what the hold up is.
So far, 32 of those state plans that were submitted, plus Washington D.C. have also been approved, meaning that these states now have full access to the federal COVID relief funds earmarked for them.
The Phoenix reached out to the Florida Department of Education for a timeline on when the application will be sent to the feds and is awaiting a response.
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