How may districts use ESSER funds?
The purpose of ESSER is to fund activities necessary to maintain continuity of services and/or prevent, prepare for, or respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This full list of eligible uses for each ESSER grant can be found as follows:
ESSER funds may be used to hire a broad range of professionals who deliver mental health services and supports, including but not limited to nurses, school counselors, psychologists, and social workers.
Districts should think broadly about the impact of COVID-19 on students and communities, and about preparing for the future. This may include coordinating preparedness and response efforts of districts with State, local, Tribal, and territorial public health departments, and other relevant agencies, to improve coordinated responses among such entities to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19.
Is it allowable to use funds to respond to problems that existed before COVID-19?
Yes. ESSER funds may be used for activities indirectly related to the impact of COVID-19, including addressing challenges that existed before the pandemic. For example, funds may go towards improving curriculum and assessment, creating or enhancing full-service community schools, making improvements to facilities, and as outlined in the
USED Volume 2 COVID Handbook, provided such uses are consistent with statutory requirements and the Uniform Guidance in
2 CFR Part 200.
Can indirect/administrative expenses be charged to the ESSER grants?
Yes. Districts may charge indirect/administrative expenses to all three of their ESSER grants according to their federally negotiated indirect rate. For questions regarding your district's indirect rate, including to establish one, please contact
May districts use ESSER funds for preschool or early learning activities?
Yes. Preschool, early learning, and activities that support early childhood development are all allowable. These include activities in the community that support early learning and development.
May districts use ESSER funds to provide transportation for students to and from school?
Yes. Supporting or providing transportation services for students is an allowable use of funds under ESSER as long as the need is related to COVID-19 (e.g., to support daily attendance at school to address the impact of lost instructional time) and the cost is reasonable and necessary. This could include, but is not limited to, transportation services provided directly by the school district; the cost of public transportation services (e.g., bus or subway fare); taxis, rideshare apps, or other driving services; or compensation to parents or guardians for providing transportation services for their children.
Please see the following question for more information on compensating parents or guardians for transporting their students.
May districts facing a shortage of school bus drivers use ESSER funds to compensate parents or guardians for transporting their students to and from school?
Yes. ESSER funds may be used to reimburse parents or guardians for transportation costs or to offer a stipend for transportation costs, as long as they are reasonable and necessary. This type of program may be appropriate to sustain in-person instruction if a district is experiencing challenges hiring and/or retaining the school bus drivers necessary to accommodate the district’s transportation needs.
Before compensating parents or guardians for transportation costs, districts must develop clear, objective procedures that, in addition to other relevant factors, consider: the number of days of transportation provided for in-person attendance; documentation of the travel costs to ensure that the compensation is used only for transportation-related expenses; and a process to account for any ESSER funds that were paid to parents or guardians but not used for transportation costs.
Can ESSER funds be used for retention bonuses or hazard pay to staff members who have worked through the pandemic?
Yes, ESSER I, II, or III funds may be used for staff stipends, retention bonuses, and hazard pay, as long as they are necessary and reasonable in amount.
Can districts use ESSER funds on facilities? What about constructing new buildings?
Yes. ESSER funds may be used for both renovations to existing buildings and new construction. Capital expenditures must be reasonable and necessary for addressing safety issues, such as improving ventilation, creating new hallways that allow for greater distancing, and remodeling spaces for classroom instruction. New construction is permitted if renovations to existing buildings would exceed the costs of building new or if additional classrooms are needed to ensure proper distancing.
Note: Districts must first obtain ODE approval for capital expenditures for them to be considered eligible for reimbursement. Please see the Capital Expenditures section of this FAQ for more information.