COVID-19 federal relief updates
U.S. Department of Education focuses on equity for all students
New guidance released by the Biden administration on June 9 addresses the maintenance of equity provisions in the American Rescue Plan that must be met for state agencies and LEAs to receive their share of the funding. View the document:

Maintenance of equity provisions are meant to help ensure that schools and LEAs serving large proportions of historically underserved groups of students — including students from low-income families, students of color, English learners, students with disabilities and students experiencing homelessness — receive an equitable share of state and local funds allocated for pandemic recovery.

These schools and LEAs historically have been under-funded and are more reliant on state funding than are schools and LEAs with lower concentrations of underserved students. Accordingly, if state or local funds are cut, the maintenance of equity provisions ensure that LEAs and schools serving a large share of students from low-income backgrounds do not experience a disproportionate share of such cuts in fiscal years 2022 and 2023, and that the highest poverty LEAs do not receive a decrease in state funding below their FY 2019 level.

Emergency Connectivity Fund
The Federal Communications Commission announced that the first Emergency Connectivity Fund Program application filing period is open from June 29 to Aug. 13, 2021. The program is meant to fund equipment and service needs in the new academic year for off-campus use by students, school staff and library patrons who may otherwise lack this access. Interested applicants will have until Aug. 13, to submit funding requests for purchases to be made between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022. The Emergency Connectivity Fund Program, part of 2021’s American Rescue Plan, will provide up to $7.17 billion in support toward the purchase of tablets, WiFi hotspots, modems, routers and broadband connectivity.
School nutrition
Under the summer meal programs, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, schools may provide free meals to all students, and National School Lunch Program (NSLP) applications are not required. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the USDA allowed schools to operate under summer meal programs rules in the 2020–21 school year and allowed LEAs to collect NSLP applications for the purpose of establishing student eligibility for Pandemic-Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) funds.

In California, NSLP applications are also used to identify students as low income, referred to as “free or reduced-price meal eligible,” so that they may be included in an LEA’s unduplicated pupil count, which is used to determine supplemental and concentration grants under the Local Control Funding Formula. LEAs certify these data as part of the Fall 1 submission to the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS).

On April 20, the USDA announced that schools may operate under the Seamless Summer Option, during the upcoming 2021−22 school year. As of the date of this communication, the USDA has not provided LEAs with 2021−22 guidance that allows them to collect NSLP applications for P-EBT purposes; however, making such an allowance would be consistent with the guidance USDA provided in 2020−21. Based on this previous guidance, the CDE lists two ways that LEAs can collect the FRPM eligibility data in 2021−22: through the Alternative Household Income form or the NSLP application.